Originally created 03/18/98

Packers raise $24 million with stock sale



GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers raised about $24 million in their first stock sale since the 1950s, far short of an initial target of $80 million, the team said Tuesday.

Still, Packers president Bob Harlan said the sale was a "phenomenal showing of fan support."

"We are truly in awe of the backing that folks have shown," he said.

The team signed up 105,989 new shareholders at $200 per share from every state and some foreign countries in the stock sale that ended Monday, Harlan said.

More than 32,000 of the new shareholders are from Wisconsin.

"It enables us to do what we wanted to do when we announced the stock sale last May: make improvements to Lambeau Field to try and make it more comfortable and safe for our fans," Harlan said.

The shares are nonredeemable and nondividend-paying, which makes them little more than souvenir pieces of paper suitable for framing.

"But, oh what a piece of paper to hang on the wall," said Lois Coppersmith, 62, of Green Bay, who bought two shares of stock.

She expects there will be more stock offerings in the future because of rising players' salaries and other costs.

"They will probably need more money," she said. "Yes, I would buy some more stock, if I live long enough."

Harlan said forecasting sales was difficult.

"After all, this is something we hadn't done in more than 45 years when we raised $118,000 in 1950," he said. Then, shares cost $25 apiece.

Until the new stock offering, the team listed 1,940 stockholders owning 4,635 shares. The Packers are the only publicly owned professional sports team in the United States.

Packers officials said at the team's 1997 annual meeting that it had invested about $50 million in bricks and mortar since the early 1980s. This includes private boxes and club seats in Lambeau Field, playing field upgrades, the Don Hutson indoor practice center and other practice areas.

But such spending is coming to an end with sharply rising costs of player acquisition and retention, Harlan said.

"With stock sale revenues, we've now got the money to keep building a team and at the same time continue to improve Lambeau field," he said.

Packers officials have been meeting with three teams of architects to determine what can be done to improve Lambeau Field for fans, Harlan said. Priorities are moving out the perimeter fence and building more restrooms, he said.

The team also plans to build a swimming pool for players, plus improve and expand the locker room and training room, he said.

The stock sale, the fourth in the team's 79-year history, was launched months after the Packers won the 1997 Super Bowl, the team's first NFL championship in 30 years, and just weeks before the team qualified for the 1998 Super Bowl, an upset loss to Denver.

With the surge in the team's ownership, the next shareholders meeting is planned July 8 at Lambeau Field.

The new shareholders get no special privileges, such as season tickets, Harlan said. But the Packers are discussing a special line of clothing and other team merchandise that would be available to only team owners, Harlan said.