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Financial Success Prepares Packers For Future


Three straight NFC North division titles. Thirteen consecutive seasons without a losing record. Two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl championship.

The Green Bay Packers over the past decade no doubt have been one of the National Football League's most successful franchises.

And for all the success the Green and Gold has had on the field, the Packers also have thrived off it.

There's the organization's position in the NFL revenue rankings -- 10th for the third consecutive year, after being 20th as recently as the 2002 fiscal year. There's the outstanding performance of the Lambeau Field Atrium businesses, which in their first full year of operation since the $295 million stadium renovation was completed, generated $5.9 million. And there's the Packers' after-tax operating profit of $25.4 million for 2005, up 10.9 percent from a year ago.

And yet for all the ways the Packers exceeded even their own business expectations over the past year, the organization's most significant obstacles have yet to be overcome.

This week, the Packers organization will distribute to its shareholders the annual report of the 2004-05 fiscal year, announcing the creation of the Packers Franchise Preservation Fund (PFPF), to replace the team's corporate reserve fund, which grew from $84.5 million in the 2004 fiscal year to $97.7 million in the 2005 fiscal year that just ended.

The Packers Franchise Preservation Fund is a walled-off fund that will provide the Packers with the financial resources required to compete successfully in the NFL and ensure that the Packers will remain in Green Bay for many years to come.

"It's money that we hope we don't have to use for operational purposes and is a little different than just having a corporate reserve account," corporate treasurer Larry Weyers said. "In this case we are trying to set aside some money to preserve the Packers franchise. Hopefully we won't have to face the threats that would challenge our ability to survive."

Among those threats are the unresolved Collective Bargaining Agreement issues, which could threaten the Packers' existence if the NFL moves toward an uncapped salary system.

"The unresolved Collective Bargaining Agreement and salary cap issues are our number one concern about the future," said Packers executive vice president/COO John Jones. "Revenue sharing discussions within the league have been given extensive coverage by the media. We are confident that revenue sharing will be resolved.

"Little attention is being paid to the key issue -- a very difficult economic negotiation with the Players Association once revenue sharing is settled. The Players Association is seeking major changes in the NFL system and deep economic changes. We don't know if these issues can be resolved."

The Packers, unlike most franchises, don't have the deep-pockets owner who can dish out multi-million dollar salaries and signing bonuses. The Packers Franchise Preservation Fund is designed to protect against that.

Additionally, the rise of new stadiums in recent and future years will cause another deep shift in the economics of local revenues.

"That shows you how competitive the league is," said Jones. "Our goal is to be in the league's Top 12 in revenue ranking. We've increased revenue each of the last three years on a local basis and we've remained 10th. So instead of increasing revenue and moving up, we're increasing revenue and holding our own."

Since the stadium referendum five years ago, the Packers have used their time to recreate Lambeau Field as a year-round tourist destination, improve financial performance and position the franchise for long-term stability.

The Packers organization also is busy shaping its future leadership vision and direction.

In May, Weyers succeeded John Underwood as treasurer. The two worked hand-in-hand during the prior year preparing Weyers for the position. Underwood, at the request of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, will continue to serve on the Special Committee on League Economics and, with the support of Packers president Bob Harlan and the executive committee, will report to the organization until current league economics are stabilized.

The Packers also added two new executive committee members, John Bergstrom and Carl Kuehne, and six new board members to be voted on by the shareholders in late July, all of whom will deepen the talent on the Packers' board of directors, which Harlan and Jones can call upon to help keep the franchise moving forward.

And the NFL, no doubt, understands the global appeal the small-market Green Bay Packers bring to the table, as evidenced by the league showcasing eight of the team's final nine games on national television in 2005.

The Packers also are the only team represented on three of the league's major committees -- the League Stadium Committee (Jones), the Management Council Executive Committee (Harlan), in addition to Underwood's on-going role.

"That's very important because it means that the Packers have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made about our league and our team," said Jones.

And so the Packers organization forges ahead, looking to create new revenue opportunities to keep its team competitive, while enriching the experience of the fans that support the franchise.

In addition to the two preseason and eight regular-season games held at Lambeau Field each season, the Packers have created new ways for fans to experience the crown jewel of the National Football League.

Generating revenue for both the organization and community that otherwise would not have been there, the first ever 'Packers Fan Fest' sold out several Green Bay hotels last March.

In another first for the organization, Lambeau Field next February will be converted into an outdoor ice hockey stadium for the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, featuring the Wisconsin Badgers skating against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, the Packers Pro Shop, the largest single-store operation in the league, generated a record $17.2 million in retail sales last year, up $1.8 million from one year ago, in addition to the revenue generated by other Atrium businesses, including the Packers Hall of Fame, Lambeau Field stadium tours, the many social and corporate events held at the stadium and the Atrium's year-round dining option, Curly's Pub.

"The investment the community made in refurbishing Lambeau Field is really paying off," said Weyers. "Lambeau Field is performing financially just the way that the Packers organization promised it would, and it has become a great source of economic value to our community."

"The credit goes to our community and our fans," said Jones. "They have given us this opportunity and none of this would be possible without them. The fans and the community have embraced the building and what we've tried to do here at Lambeau Field."

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