Friday, December 2, 2011

Taking Stock (UPDATED)

The new stock sale is official, and the Packers have announced the first details. Beginning on December 6, the team will be offering 250,000 shares at $250 apiece.

If you weren't able to take advantage of the 1997 offering, this is your chance to put one of these beauties on the wall:

The upcoming issuance is the fifth stock sale in Packer history. In addition to the 1997 offering, stock was sold in 1923, 1935 and 1950.

The Packers first hit on the idea of selling stock as a means of rescuing the team from very precarious financial straits. Head coach and co-founder Curly Lambeau joined with Dr. W. Webber Kelly, grocery man Lee Joannes, attorney Gerald Clifford and A.B. Turnbull, publisher of the Green Bay Press-Gazette in dedicating themselves to raising money for the club, spending so much time with their hands out that they became known collectively as "The Hungry Five". Not just content with seeking donatations, they hit upon the idea of converting the team into a publicly-held, non-profit corporation. 1,000 shares were sold at $5 apiece in conjunction with at least six season tickets.

That first stock certificate was a fairly generic corporate design.

Saved in the short-term, the Packers managed to stave off disaster for a decade before financial problems caught up with them and forced a second sale. In 1935 another sale was held, and $110,000 was raised to help the club. That stock certificate also employed a standard template .

Collection of Don Sipes

As part of the sale the team re-organized with a new corporate name, reflected on the certificate.

This second sale was enough to keep the Packers afloat, but the NFL's smallest market would again be plagued by financial troubles in the late 1940s, and after a series of fundraising drives the Packers still found themselves in need of the cash infusion only a stock sale had brought them. This third sale, in 1950, also helped give the Packers a new start. Curly Lambeau had been forced out, giving the franchise a new head coach for the first time in its history. The team also had a new colorful graphic design, and for the first time the Packers' stock certificates were customized to match:

These certificates featured the team's brand-new wordmark, the team's name superimposed on a football and flanked by goalposts. The Packers raised $118,000 at $25 per share, money the team would need during the lean years ahead.

It was nearly a half-century before the Packers would authorize another stock offering.

This fourth stock sale couldn't have more different circumstances than the previous three. Instead of coming from hunger, the Packers were flush at the very top of the NFL. Instead of needing funds to keep the doors open, the Packers were instead raising money to fund a massive renovation and expansion of Lambeau Field.

Coming on the heels of a Super Bowl win (and immediately before a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance), the Packers raised more than $24 million towards the 2003 renovation. Although 105,989 new shareholders joined the ranks of NFL owners, 279,090 shares remained unsold, and those unsold shares form the basis of the current offering.

I wonder if the new certificates will have the same design as the previous version, or if they'll take the opportunity to tweak it. I've never liked the photo-negative green-on-white Packers logo, not even when they put it on the side of Lambeau Field in the 1990s:

Aside from being less visually pleasing, there's just no reason to have the inverted coloring. Braisher's classic logo, white "G" in green oval surrounded by gold, works as well on a white certificate as it does the team's gold helmets. Maybe the 2011 certificates can fix this ├Žsthetic wrong.

Although those five men could not have known it at the time, the creative solution they devised not only saved the Packers in 1923 but also laid the foundations for a prosperous and successful future, ensuring that the Packers would remain in the NFL, and in Green Bay, long after every other small-town team had either folded or moved to a larger market.

The legacy of the Hungry Five lives on, every glorious autumnal Sunday in old Green Bay. If you haven't joined that legacy yet, your chance begins on December 6th.

UPDATE 12/6/2011: Here is is, and she's a beauty:

A great design. They have indeed replaced the photo-negative logo, and I'm partial to the sublimated photo of Lambeau Field in the background.

Here's the full series, from 1923 through today:

(h/t: Mark Schneider of GLORY DAYS Sports Pub in LaCrosse, WI)

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