(Updates with more Weir comments in paragraphs 7-8.)
Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Green Bay Packers fans purchased $400,000 worth of shares in the first 11 minutes as the National Football League team’s fifth stock sale began today.
The only publicly owned franchise in U.S. sports, the Packers want to raise $62.5 million with the sale that started at 9 a.m. New York time. Shares cost $250 each and are available via mail or online at PackersOwner.com.
Matthew Weir, a vice president at Taconic Investment Partners LLC in New York City, bought four shares -- one for himself and his wife, and three to potentially pass on to children later in life. A Wisconsin native, Weir said he bought the stock partially because it was a direct way to support his favorite team.
“It’s also a big pride thing,” Weir, 30, said today in a telephone interview. “It’s the ability to say you’re an owner of an NFL team and a participant in something that’s only happened a limited amount of times.”
The stock does not pay dividends or appreciate in value, and shareholders technically could be fined by the league for violating terms of NFL ownership. Shareholders could be fined up to $500,000 by league commissioner Roger Goodell for conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league -- including “publicly criticizing any NFL member club or its management” -- and up to $5,000 if they bet on the outcome of NFL games, according to the terms of the stock.
‘The Fine Print’
“As a businessman, I always make sure to read the fine print,” Weir said. “I would not be shocked to find that many people are not aware of that restriction.”
Weir said the stock sale is a reminder of the team’s small- town roots and what it has to do to stay competitive in the NFL.
“When you understand the economics of sports today, you look at the big-market teams and then you look at what Green Bay’s been able to do,” he said. “Here is an opportunity to add to their success, not only today, but for the future to ensure that they stay competitive and keep those winning traditions going.”
The Packers franchise won its fourth Super Bowl in February, a game that was the most-watched television event in U.S. history. The Packers are 12-0 this season, the only undefeated team in the league.
“This is a significant and historic time for the organization,” club President Mark Murphy said today in a media conference call. “In the first 11 minutes, we had 1,600 sales.”
The team did not provide any updates of stock sales later in the day.
Runs Through February
The sale will run until Feb. 29, subject to extension, and the team will issue additional shares if the initial 250,000 sell out, Murphy said.
“That would be a good problem to have,” he said.
The Packers are raising money to help pay for a $143 million renovation of Lambeau Field that will add two gates, new scoreboards, a new sound system and about 6,700 seats before the start of the 2013 season, according to the team.
Stock is available to individuals in the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Shares can be purchased as a gift for others, and can be delivered in time for Christmas if purchased before Dec. 12, Murphy said.
Shareholders are given a vote for the team’s board of directors and can attend stockholders meetings every summer in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with exclusive access to events such as rookie practices and stadium tours. They also have a special store with apparel such as “I Own A Piece of the Pack” T- shirts.
“First and foremost, it’s a way for them to support the team and it does give them significant bragging rights to say that they are owners of a Super Bowl-championship team,” Murphy said.
The Packers had about 112,000 owners of 4.75 million shares prior to today’s sale. The team has owners in all 50 states, with Miller Brewing Co. the largest shareholder, Murphy said. He didn’t say how many shares are held by Miller, a unit of Molson Coors Brewing Co.
Previous Stock Sale
The team last sold stock in 1997, when it raised roughly $24 million at $200 a share to update the stadium.
“I think our timing is good and the fact that we have the ability to sell online through the internet should help us reach more people,” Murphy said.
The renovation will be funded mostly through the stock sale and debt, Murphy said. He said Green Bay-based Associated Banc- Corp, Wisconsin’s largest independent bank by assets, will handle the debt financing, which is expected to be under $100 million, he said.
“This is really the first time in the organization’s history that we’re taking on significant debt,” Murphy said. “Money that we are able to raise through the stock sale benefits the team because it allows us to borrow less money and reduce our debt cost.”
Green Bay has a population of 104,057, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the smallest market in the NFL. The Packers are valued at $1.08 billion, ninth highest in the league, according to Forbes magazine.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who leads the league with a 127.7 passer rating and 71.8 completion percentage, leads all players in Pro Bowl balloting, the NFL announced last week on its website. The Packers have the lead vote-getter in 10 of the 19 National Football Conference positions.
Weir met his wife, a fellow Wisconsinite, at a Packers bar in New York. He said that he will proudly display his stock certificate in his apartment.
“It’s definitely going up in a frame, and it will be a battle with my wife to see how prominent a location it gets in a New York City apartment,” he said.
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