A stock approach for Packers fans

Green Bay Packers fans Sarah Barlow, left, and Green Bay Packers fans Sarah Barlow, left, and Laurie Leaf toast before an NFC playoff game. The Packers use a stock approach to ownership. Photo Credit: MCT Photo

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DALLAS - Imagine a say in who manages the Mets, having a chance to vote on Oliver Perez's contract, and knowing exactly where each dollar spent on parking, concessions and tickets at Citi Field winds up.

Whoever comes along and dumps a quarter-billion dollars into the laps of the Wilpons for a piece of the ownership of the Mets will no doubt get all of those perks. But here at the Super Bowl, fans of the Green Bay Packers already boast some rights of ownership - and the pride of actually rooting for the team they own in a championship game.

Since 1923, the Packers have been the only publicly owned franchise in any major sport in America. There are 112,120 people who own 4,750,937 shares of stock in the team, according to the latest financial report released last summer. So when the team needs to raise capital for things such as stadium improvements, payroll increases or - hypothetically - a payoff to make a Ponzi scheme lawsuit go away, all it has to do is issue a few more shares of stock - the last time they did it was in 1997 at $200 a share - and the public gobbles them up.

Not that the shares are a good financial investment. They're more symbolic gestures of loyalty. None of the shares of stock produce dividends and the redemption price is minimal. Owners don't even get season tickets (although all of them could probably fit into Cowboys Stadium, site of the Super Bowl Sunday, they'd have no shot at squeezing into Lambeau Field, capacity 73,128). They do get a tour of the Packers' locker room once a year.

For Packers fans and owners, though, it's more about what they don't have: owners squeezing every dime out of the fans, worries about the franchise ever leaving and headaches over management decisions.

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Jealous, Mets fans? Those who root for other New York teams can join you because the Packers also live without PSLs.

Certainly the owners don't vote on game plans. There will be no shareholders' meeting to decide whether the Packers will go for it on fourth-and-1 or punt against the Steelers this evening. But the collective ownership does vote on a board of directors. Within that structure is a seven-member executive committee. Mark Murphy is chairman of the board and CEO and represents the team at NFL owner meetings. That will be interesting during the upcoming labor unrest because Murphy, now technically on the side of the owners, was a former player for the Redskins, their NFLPA representative from 1980-84, and a vice president of the players' union.

Like any CEO of a publicly owned corporation, Murphy can be fired. The stockholders, who meet once a year, can vote in a new board of directors that could oust him. Of course, with the team in the Super Bowl - the only dividend most owners care about - there's little need for Murphy to be sweating.

There's no way for the publicly owned structure to be instituted with the Mets, of course. Technically, it's even against the NFL's ownership rules which say that a team can only have as many as 32 owners; the Packers were grandfathered in. But it will give Mets fans something to think about while they watch the Super Bowl Sunday. Instead of hanging their heads over the Wilpons, they could be voting them out.

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