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Green Bay Packers' stock: Hot, yet worthless

COMMENTARY The undefeated Green Bay Packers have scored another victory with their stock sale even though, as an investment, it's a lousy buy.

Yesterday the team put up 250,000 shares for sale at $250 each and got 1,600 orders in the first 11 minutes. Pretty impressive considering it pays no dividends, the value doesn't increase and it has no resale value. So it's kind of like Greek treasury bonds.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Packers made the stock offering - its first since 1997 - to raise funds for renovations at Lambeau Field, the team's home in Green Bay, Wis. The team is the U.S.'s only non-profit, community-owned major league sports team. Founded in 1919, the Packers went public in 1923 and this sale marks only the fifth stock sale in team history.

The team makes no effort to hide the worthlessness of the stock. Here's the sales pitch from president and CEO Mark H. Murphy:

I encourage you to buy shares of stock in the Packers. We need your help. As an owner, you will be invited to shareholder meetings and have voting privileges. 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.

The blog Daily Finance offers this quote from the prospectus:

A purchaser of [GB] Stock in the Offering will not receive any special benefits, such as access to tickets to Packers games, preferential seating for Packers games or discounts on Packers merchandise. ... in light of the [shares'] transfer restrictions and redemption rights ... it is virtually impossible for anyone to realize a profit on a purchase of [GB] stock or even to recoup the amount initially paid to acquire such common stock.

This is such a wonderfully honest and straight-forward prospectus that it almost makes me want to buy a share. And, as the early sales figures make clear, honesty pays. Fans know they're getting hosed and can't wait to put their money down. Here's what one true-believer told the AP:

I could have just as well thrown my money out the window for what I get for it, other than a feel-good. I just feel like the Packer organization has sort of a nostalgia and an excitement around it other franchises don't have. Just to say you're part of that on some level is neat to me.

Top that, Berkshire-Hathaway.

So since you can't make money off of it, what good is the stock? In addition to having a snazzy looking certificate to hang on the wall, being an owner gives you the right to A) attend a meeting before the start of training camp, B) the aforementioned bragging rights, and C) the ability to purchase exclusive shareholder-only team merchandise (which, again, is a lot more than you get from many European treasury bonds these days).

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