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Pandemic season produced uncommon financial report for Packers

Operating losses were offset by investment gains, keeping organization in sound financial shape

Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field

GREEN BAY – The pandemic season of 2020 led to the Packers' first financial operating loss since before the renovation of Lambeau Field nearly two decades ago, but the organization's overall economic picture remains strong with plenty of positives on the horizon.

As the Packers released their annual financial statement Friday, the team reported an operating loss of $38.8 million due to an expected and significant drop in revenue. That's in stark contrast to last year's $70.3 million operating profit.

But this year's overall net income was still in the black, to the tune of $60.7 million, thanks to $120 million in mostly unrealized investment gains as of March 31, the end of the most recent fiscal year. The net income is actually an increase over the previous year's $34.9 million, when investment losses were reported at the start of the pandemic.

"Obviously this was a unique year with the pandemic, and it did have a significant effect on our finances," President/CEO Mark Murphy said. "Overall, the Packers remain in a strong financial position and still feel very confident we have the resources to succeed on and off the field."

Looking at the revenue picture, the team did not have any ticket sales from its eight regular-season games (and the preseason had been canceled), so the corresponding revenue from parking, concessions and merchandise sales didn't exist, either. Revenue from sponsorships and the Lambeau Field Atrium businesses, which were shut down for a while and saw limited foot traffic otherwise, also were way down.

In all, local revenue dropped $149 million during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, from $210.9 million to $61.8 million, or 70.7% lower than the previous fiscal year.

The losses were mitigated, though, by an increase of $13.2 million in national revenue (a 4.5% bump, from $296 million to $309.2 million) and a $26.7 million drop in expenses (6.1% decrease, from $436.6 million to $409.8 million).

The NFL's entire season was broadcast on television like usual, so the national revenue rose its customary amount. Expenses decreased primarily due to collectively bargained benefits the players' union agreed to forego during the pandemic (in exchange for salary-cap reductions being delayed until this year and spread out over multiple upcoming seasons), and due to the lack of game-day staff, security, and other costs related to hosting fans for games.

The Packers were able to navigate the economic downturn without tapping into its corporate reserve fund by using a combination of a credit line and cash on hand – thanks in part to a portion of season-ticket holders leaving their money on account to be applied to the 2021 season.

The corporate reserve fund, which sat at just under $500 million at the close of the most recent fiscal year, helped secure the line of credit needed to manage the unique financial circumstances. The fact that it remained untouched helped maximize the investment gains from the market rebound, leading to the positive net income.

Moving forward, investment in both Lambeau Field and the Titletown development will continue both this year and beyond.

The stadium's concourse renovation was paused last year but has resumed in preparation for capacity crowds again in 2021, with the current project adding more grab-and-go concession stands as well as televisions and other video monitors throughout.

"It'll be great to have all our fans back, and we're excited for them to see and experience the changes," Murphy said.

Coming soon, Lambeau's video boards will need to be replaced, and a football facility expansion is under discussion, with the recent relocation of the stadium's underground surge tank a necessary first step.

With Titletown, several townhouses have been sold with a handful of owners moving in, and occupancy in the new office and apartment buildings will begin later this fall. The partnerships with Microsoft in TitletownTech and the Equity League are off to good starts as well.

TitletownTech has contributed to or invested in more than 20 start-up companies, while the Equity League – which also involves the Bucks and Brewers – will be directing investments toward minority-owned companies and contributed to efforts to break down barriers for minority business owners.

"We view Titletown as a community asset," Murphy said. "It's an investment made in the community, and we're still developing it.

"A number of different professional sports teams are developing land and areas around their stadium, which can make a very positive impact. For us, it's even more significant given the relative small size of our market."

The team's charitable impact over the past year rose to more than $9 million, with a sizable portion going toward COVID-19 support and social justice initiatives.

With Lambeau Field returning to full capacity for 2021, this past year's financial report is expected to be an anomaly. Local revenues are anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Also, the NFL's new contracts with its broadcast partners are slated to take effect in the coming years, boosting national revenue toward the middle of the decade and beyond as well.

"Looking ahead, I have great confidence for two main reasons – the long-term collective bargaining agreement with the players, and the long-term broadcast agreements," Murphy said. "That will bode well for the future."

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