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Pride in owning a piece of the Packers

Kristin Karnay with godchildren Jack Ryan Bradley, 15

Kristin Karnay with godchildren Jack Ryan Bradley, 15 and Anna Stroh, 7. The cousins persuaded their parents to buy Kristin a Green Bay Packers stock certificate for Christmas. (Jan. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Anne-Marie Ricchione of Bethpage is a minority owner of the Green Bay Packers. So are Michael Primiani of Floral Park, Brian Ariss of Amityville and dozens of other Long Islanders.

The Packers, who host the Giants Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game, are the only publicly owned team in professional sports, giving fans an opportunity to buy a piece -- or sliver -- of the franchise.

"How many people can say they own their favorite team?" said Kelly Wich, 31, of Holbrook, who received a share of Packers stock from her boyfriend as a Christmas gift. "No one else can say that except for Packers fans."

More than 100,000 people can make that claim, according to the Packers, but their many owners receive no financial incentive for their "investment" in the team.

The stock does not appreciate or produce dividends and cannot be sold. It also cannot be purchased in quantities large enough to take control of the team. And it comes with no special ticket privileges.

Shareholders can attend the annual meeting and have voting rights, but basically the Packers are using what they refer to as "unselfish fans" as a way to help the team's cash flow.

Last month the Packers made 250,000 shares available for $250 a share -- plus a $25 processing fee per transaction -- to raise money for a Lambeau Field expansion project. Those shares were sold so quickly that the team later amended the offering, putting an additional 30,000 shares up for sale.

This stock offering, which ends Feb. 29, marks only the fifth in Packers franchise history and second since 1950.

Ricchione, 41, said her fiance, Joseph Pratt, 49, of Mineola, bought her a share for her birthday last month, just weeks before they traveled to Green Bay to attend a game at Lambeau Field on Christmas night.

The fact that she was watching a team she partially owns was not lost on her that evening.

"I was like, wait a minute, this is my team," said Ricchione, who works for a title company in Syosset. "It had a completely different feeling than before when I was rooting for them because it was like, 'Look, really, this is my team. It is our team. We part-own it.' "

She added that Pratt, who is chief of the Mineola Fire Department, also bought a share for himself to go with the share he owns from the previous offering in 1997. She doesn't hide the fact their investment is strictly for emotional reasons.

"The thing is, it's non-interest-bearing, so it really means nothing, and my mother was like, 'So why would you buy it?' " Ricchione said. "I said it is a matter of pride of ownership."

Kristin Karnay, 34, of Babylon, a longtime Packers fan, said her family surprised her with a share in her favorite team as a Christmas gift. The stock comes in the form of a certificate, complete with the owner's name and address on top of the Packers' logo.

For many owners, it's a source of pride. "Whenever someone would talk about a team and says 'we' or 'us' or 'we should have won,' it used to always frustrate me," Karnay said. "But I told myself that now that I'm a stockholder, I can legitimately say, 'we won' or 'we lost' or 'we should have done better.' "

Primiani, a 22-year-old accountant, joked that many of his friends who root for the Jets warned him it was a scam. "But I didn't listen," he said.

Primiani comes from a family of Packers fans, and he was interested in adding the certificate to his memorabilia collection. "It's still something cool to have," he added. "Technically, you're an owner of the Packers."

Even non-Packers fans have been caught up in the emotional rise of "buying" a professional sports team.

Ariss, 30, roots for the Jets. But he said he was so moved by the atmosphere at a Packers game he attended at Lambeau a few years ago that he vowed to buy a share in the next offering.

"I appreciate history," Ariss said, though he wasn't so sure his wife would appreciate the look of a newly framed certificate hanging on their wall.

The Packers plan to use the roughly $70 million raised in this stock offering to add 6,700 seats, two HD video boards and other amenities to their stadium.

Packers CEO Mark Murphy, in a letter to prospective buyers, said, "Ownership will also provide you with significant bragging rights. You will become an owner of the defending world champions, a team that has won more world championships than any other team in the NFL."

Bragging rights alone make it a worthwhile investment for many Packers fans.

"I love calling myself a part-owner of the Green Bay Packers," said Eddie Alejandro, 35, of Bayside, who works for an insurance firm in Garden City. "I've been calling myself a part-owner every opportunity I have."

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