Shareholders meeting draws from near and far
By Kelly O’Day
Photos by Kelly O’Day
Owners streamed in from across the state and parts farther afield when the Green Bay Packers held their shareholders meeting inside Lambeau Field on July 24.
A crowd showed up for the meeting, partly due to beautiful weather.
A gorgeous day drew a crowd estimated at 7,000 strong to hear Packers’ brass give a sort of state of the union address, full of highlights of the recent past, plans and dreams for the future, mixed with highlight videos and statistical overlays.
After it was over, a few attendees gave their perceptions of the event.
“This was my first time and it was very impressive. It blows my mind the size of this organization and to have all of those people in the stadium for the meeting,” Dennis Dahl said, noting he wasn’t a shareholder, but his son is.
Highlights drew the closest attention from stadium attendees.
Dahl didn’t see a big difference between the beautiful meeting weather and his game-day experience.
“The games I’ve been to, I been up in the club seats behind the glass,” he explained.
Dahl said he comes from Arkansaw, Wisconsin, “Where we spell it the right way. It’s just a wide spot in the road. We takes turns being the town drunk.”
According to Richard Schellinger, of Allington, Wisconsin, “My daughter and son-in-law said they were taking me along. They have a share and my son, too. I’ve been to 4-5 games over the years, but this is my first time at a shareholders meeting. I enjoyed it.”
Ted Thompson cracked a few dry jokes, while surrounded by Packers brass.
Schellinger was more than impressed with the state of lambeau Field and the surrounding construction.
“It’s overwhelming,” the 84-year-old fan said. “I said to my daughter if it wouldn’t have been for Vince )Lombardi) all this probably never would have happened.
“I haven’t been here in 10 years and I can’t believe how much it’s changed. You gotta see it to believe it.”
Schellinger had another interesting take and a plea.
“I’ve seen every Super Bowl, and I hope to see the Packers in one more before I’m gone,” he said. “All the way back to Lombardi and he made this all happen.”
The event involved generally an older crowd, with only so much to keep the average youngster entertained.
“It was interesting, but toward the end it started to get boring,” Green Bay’s Aiden Schroeder, 14, said.
“It was actually pretty cool at the beginning,” his friend Carter Simonson, 12, added. “I liked all the videos, and all the new stuff. That tubing (run) looks really cool.”
The tubes are going to get up some serious speed on their runs with the 45-foot drop under construction. President Mark Murphy noted the designers wanted to make it exciting even for young teenagers.
Simonson was referring to the new Titletown District updates, including a 100 yard long tubing run with a 45-foot drop.
Packers president Mark Murphy noted how Hinterland Brewing and the Lodge at Kohler are already open, and the Bellin Health Center was nearly ready to open at the time, too.
The boys attended the meeting with their grandfather and shareholder Darel Tielens, also of Green Bay.
“I’ve been coming here now 10 years in a row,” he noted. “I think it’s great. It’s nice to know what the team is doing and what their plans are.
Carter Simonson, 12, grandfather and shareholder Darel Tielens and Aiden Schroeder, 14, checked out the shareholders meeting together.
“I got my share of stock as a Christmas gift a long time ago from my wife and daughters. I’ve been very glad they did that. Now that’s a gift that lasts.”
Word from the chief
A big part of the event is listening to team leadership provide updates on the league, the Packers, and recent infrastructure developments.
President Mark Murphy made the point that Packers fans take so much ownership of their team that ‘If you ask people in Boston whom Tom Brady plays for, they’ll say, ‘Tommy plays for the Patriots,’ and in New York, about Eli Manning, they’ll say, ‘Eli plays for the Giants.’ But ask people in Green Bay whom Aaron Rodgers plays for, and they’ll answer, ‘He plays for us.’”
The HD video boards were used frequently in the shareholders meeting.
When someone in the crowd shouted out the question of when Green Bay was going to host a Super Bowl, Murphy countered with the reality that there are only 8,000 hotel/motel rooms within an hour of the stadium, not the 30,000 required by the league.
But he quickly added, “It’s going to be a lot of fun for all our fans to drive across the state when we’re in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis (on Feb. 4, 2018).”
He later explained he wasn’t pulling a Joe-Namath-style vow, and downplayed its significance, despite some in the media trying to put it into that category.
Larry Kuciemba — a shareholder since 1997 — came all the way from Houston, Texas to attend the meeting and show off his Packers sombrero.
“It certainly wasn’t a guarantee,” Murphy said. “It was just that it would be really nice to play in a Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Not only is it a short drive, I hear from fans all the time in western Wisconsin, and Minneapolis is a great city, and the new stadium is really pretty spectacular. It will be a really nice Super Bowl.”
But he drew perhaps the largest positive reaction of the day from the crowd with, “We’ve decided as an organization that we’re going to host every NFC Championship game we can.”
The Packers president finished off the subject by discussing how the Packers have applied for the draft to be held at Lambeau Field in 2019, 2020 or 2021.
Two Lutheran pastors had the day off to hang in the Lambeau Field parking lot with their kids after the meeting. From left are Mike Helwig, Johnold Stey, Lydia Stey and Gabriel Helwig.
Murphy talked about a potential “home”-and-away college football series between Wisconsin and Notre Dame, using Lambeau Field and Chicago’s Soldier Field, and the deal has already come to fruition. The Badgers and Fighting Irish will meet at Lambeau Field on October 3, 2020, and Bucky will head out of state the next year.
“I would say we’ve been working on that for a while, and I’m very hopeful very soon we’ll be able to make an announcement,” Murphy said that day. “What we’d like to do is, and I mentioned it, have a big major event in the bowl every year. I thought last year the Wisconsin-LSU game was very positive, and the Billy Joel concert, and obviously I think a Notre Dame-Wisconsin game would be pretty special.”
This little Packers fan had fun chasing her shadow around the plaza outside the Oneida Nation Gate.
Murphy backed up this by mentioning Blues Traveler and Everclear would perform for free outside Lambeau Field on September 9, the night before the season opener with Seattle. The concert will begin at 5 p.m., and the new Johnsonville Tailgate Village will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. The permanent structure replaces the removable non-sponsored village previously on the site.
Surprisingly few attendees ended up tailgating after the meeting was over just after the noon hour. But Arbor Vitaes Dennis Christopherson showed off his engineering chops by custom designing a cut-down, Packer-painted 30-gallon drum to hold his modified grill.
Dennis Christopherson’s party hung out in the nearby shade at the south edge of the parking lot.
The next day, September 10, the Lambeau lots will open at 11:25 a.m. for the 3:25 p.m. game.
Murphy also mentioned some innovations of the game, like laser sizing for shoes and the availability of four different helmets to help address player safety. He also noted there may be different helmet styles by position group at some point in the future.
The July design on the Packers Fence across Lombardi Ave.
The new 35-acre Titletown District took up a significant portion of Murphy’s time. He started by discussing the completed businesses of Hinterland Brewing and Lodge at Kohler as well as the world-class quality of medical care coming to the nearly-open (at the time) Bellin Health Center.
The new permanent Johnsonville Tailgate Village replaces the removeable party tent in the Lambeau Field east parking lot.
He continued with the family activities that will be found on site, including a 45-foot high tubing hill – pointing toward Lambeau Field – featuring a 30 percent slope and 100-yard runoff. An ice rink will snake under the tubing hill.
The four-lane tubing hill will feature a ground-floor cafe and a second-floor meeting space with an outdoor terrace, designed to bring to mind a ski lodge. Snow-making and cooling floor will extend the season for the tubing and skating from Thanksgiving into spring.
A.J. Grill didn’t have far to travel to the event as a Green Bay resident.
A full-size artificial-turf football field will be open for play and football-themed playground – with a 40-yard-sprint demarcation, football drill areas and climbing nets. There will also be a separate pre-school section.
Before Murphy spoke extensively, he introduced general manager Ted Thompson, who led off with, “It’s nice when your boss comes out and says nice things about you.”
The Packers Pro Shop cash registers rang continuously after the shareholders meeting.
Thompson went on to mention numerous statistical achievements, highlighting the eight consecutive playoff appearances, the longest active streak they currently share with New England. It’s just one short of the NFL record held by Dallas (1975-83).
A special thank you to Tomah’s Mark Roose, for donating his tickets to the Packers shareholders meeting to make this story possible.
Stock sales in the Packers’ past have been held in 1923, 1935, 1950, 1997-98 and 2011-12, and a total of 364,114 people are owners (of 5,014,545 shares).
A thousand shares were sold at $5 apiece in 1923 to keep a shaky team afloat, and $15,000 more in stock was sold in 1935 after the corporation had gone into receivership. Each shareholder was also required to buy at least six season tickets.
In 1935, $15,000 worth of shares pulled the team out of receivership,. The Green Bay Packers Corporation became the Green Bay Packers, Inc., the company it is to this day.
Approximately half the potential 9,700 new shares were sold in 1950, raising over $118,000 on 4,700 shares at $25 apiece. This sale was partly in response to a threat of Curly Lambeau taking the team with him as he left, partly due to tough financial times again.
The fourth stock sale, in 1997, created 105,989 new shareholders on 120,010 shares priced at $200 each, raising more than $24 million for the team.
The 2011 sale generated $67 million on sales of 269,000 shares, which was used toward the $143 million south end zone expansion project (nearly 7,000 more seats to raise seating to 81,000+), a new sound system and two huge HD video boards.
There was also a half-percent sales tax for Brown County which required a referendum in January, 2001. It narrowly passed by a 53%-47% margin. Former president Bob Harlan noted that the renovation/expansion saved the Packers from a slow decline to richer teams in the league. The tax – which paid for $160 million in bonding for the $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field in 2003 – ended in September, 2015.
Billionaire owners don’t like selling off portions of a cash cow this valuable. And rules require an owner to keep majority shares. Still, these owners must be jealous of Green Bay having a vehicle for fans to give money to their competing team, so owners must see it as an unfair advantage for the Packers.
In 2013, Murphy did state he expected another stock sale in the future, but not for 10 or 15 years.
In Green Bay, the stock is ceremonial, a “common stock.” No actual monetary value is attached to the stock, and if the team were ever to fail, all assets would revert to the Packers’ charitable foundation. Until 1997, the local American Legion post would have been the beneficiary of the billion-plus dollar proceeds.
The stock can only be resold to the team, at a fraction of its original price. Limited transfer to heirs and relatives is allowed.