Through the 2004 season, the seven-member Executive Committee of the Green Bay Packers was composed of (left to right) Donald J. Schneider, Member; John R. Underwood, Treasurer, Robert E. Harlan, President; John J. Fabry, Vice President; Dr. Donald F. Harden, Member; Larry L. Weyers, Member; and Peter M. Platten, III, Secretary
The only publicly owned franchise in the 32-team National Football League, the Green Bay Packers -- now in their 86th season of professional football (84th in the NFL) -- are about to undergo a transformation.
Founded as a non-profit corporation in 1922, the Packers have 4,748,923 shares of stock owned by 111,613 stockholders and are governed by a seven-member executive committee, elected from a board of directors.
The committee, which directs corporate management, approves major capital expenditures, establishes broad policy and monitors management's performance in conducting the business and affairs of the corporation, will undergo a significant change this year when longtime treasurer John Underwood and executive committee member Dr. Donald F. Harden retire.
The Packers corporation bylaws require that members of the executive committee retire at age 70.
Prior to May 2004, when Larry Weyers replaced Jim Temp, the Packers executive committee had undergone no changes in its makeup since May 1993.
"We've had the same group together for 11 years and the continuity was so important to me," said Bob Harlan, the Packers' president/CEO since June 5, 1989. "I felt my biggest responsibility when I took over as president was to restore respectability on the football field and most of these people on the executive committee had been through those tough times."
During that 11-year span, the Packers dealt with major issues such as opting -- mostly for financial reasons -- to move all homes games to Green Bay from Milwaukee, where they had played games for 62 straight years.
The committee also oversaw the first stock sale in 48 years, which brought in $24 million towards stadium renovations. In 2003, the Packers unveiled the redeveloped Lambeau Field in a rededication game against long-time divisional rival Minnesota.
"(The committee members) were also very helpful to me as I wanted to make moves to change things on the field," Harlan said, "such as bringing in Ron Wolf, giving both jobs to Mike Sherman and then this year to bring in Ted Thompson. So the continuity of the executive committee was very, very important."
As a result, the Packers have not had a losing season since 1991 and have claimed all three NFC North division titles. They have been to three NFC Championship games, two Super Bowls, and saw the Vince Lombardi Trophy return to Green Bay for the first time in 29 years.
"Those were all major decisions that totally changed this franchise," Harlan said. "Almost everything that was done hadn't been done in many years, so (the committee) had to be a part of major decisions and we were all able to get those things decided with unanimous feelings and yet maintain a very warm relationship. That just doesn't happen very often."
The Packers' success -- both on and off the field -- has also allowed the organization to build its corporate reserve fund, which acts as the safety net for a publicly owned team that doesn't have a billionaire owner to rely upon in hard times.
"Just as recently as 15 years ago," Underwood said, "the company had a net worth of $6 million. We built that up to a point to where a year ago we reported a number in excess of $84 million dollars in the reserve position of the company. That part of it is critical because we're competing in the National Football League with owners who have been very, very successful in other lives, and as a result of that they have been able to buy franchises in the NFL."
In addition, the Packers have become the model organization in the NFL, evidenced by the fact that Green Bay is the only team in the league represented on three of the League's major committees.
Vice president/COO John Jones serves on the League Stadiums Committee, while Harlan represents the organization on the Management Council Executive Committee. Underwood, at the request of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, will continue to serve on the Special Committee on League Economics and will report to the Packers executive committee until issues with the collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing are resolved.
Preparations for the upcoming changes began a year ago when Weyers was elected to the committee and began training for his future role as Packers treasurer.
"We put him in there a year ago with the thought that he could work with John (Underwood) for one year and then he would be better prepared to take over when John left the board," Harlan said about the president/CEO of Wisconsin Public Service. "It's worked out extremely well as they have had monthly meetings with different members of the staff to help Larry familiarize himself with the organization. He is so highly qualified and will do a marvelous job as treasurer for us. It's worked out extremely well and we're delighted to have him in that position."
While change is inevitable, if things continue the way they have for the past few years, the Packers are sure to be in good hands.
"It's never been a rubber stamp unit," Harlan said about the executive committee. "It's a unit that has worked to do what's best for the Green Bay Packers. (The committee members) do it with no pay. It's done for the love of the franchise and what this franchise means to the National Football League."