With no one owner, directors guide Packers

Directors have an active role in running Green Bay Packers.

Richard Ryman
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The Green Bay Packers are governed by a president and CEO, a seven-member executive committee and a 43-member board of directors.

Each director is a business person or former Packers player and represents the organization’s 363,948 shareholders, who own 5,020,523 shares.

The Packers declined to allow any directors, other than lead director Thomas Olson, to be interviewed for this story. The team doesn't allow directors to conduct interviews without permission.

The Packers did make senior staff and department heads available for a series of stories on how the organization functions, which will be published during coming weeks.

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The seven-member executive committee is at the top of the organization and includes the president and CEO, Mark Murphy, who also has a hand in choosing other committee members.

“Mark is ultimately responsible for nominating folks to the board of directors, but we have a pretty strong committee system and Mark is very good in that he lets the committees do their work,” Olson said. “The director affairs committee is responsible for helping to identify and then vet potential candidates, and then ultimately Mark listens to their recommendation.”

Olson said several executive committee members are on the director affairs committee. Executive committee appointments are approved by all the directors.

The full board of directors meets five times a year, including the annual meeting in July. The executive board meets monthly, or more often if needed.

As a rule, executive committee members get more details on issues than the board as a whole, though members of various committees get more information on their particular responsibilities.

“The committees are very active. That’s where the work gets done,” said Ed Policy, vice president and general counsel.

Executive committee meetings, which happen monthly, are half-day affairs.

“For me, going into my first executive committee meeting,” Policy said, "I was fascinated to see 'how was this going to work out?' because I’ve been around the NFL for a long time, I’d known a lot of different ownership groups. Some are highly effective, some are downright dysfunctional, not just in the NFL, throughout sports.

“When I got in my first one and I saw, gosh, you have some pretty sophisticated and accomplished individuals around the table. Everybody had checked their ego, they were all there for a higher cause, and they were all in that room to kind of make progress for the Packers, the Packers shareholders and this community. It was pretty encouraging.”

Olson said executive committee members are comfortable stating their positions and do so freely.

“I don’t think Mark would want shrinking violets,” he said.

During Bob Harlan’s 19 years as Packers chairman and president, he had the same executive committee for 11 consecutive years. Only John Bergstrom remains from Harlan’s tenure, though turnover remains rare.

Murphy’s had 13 executive committee members, including himself, during his tenure.

"It's a really productive, healthy relationship," Murphy said of his interaction with the executive committee.

In choosing executive committee members, Murphy looks for people who can fill specific roles. For example, Susan Finco is a public relations professional who specializes in crisis management, Bergstrom has marketing expertise and Tom Olejniczak is an attorney, not to mention the son of longtime Packers president Dominic Olejniczak.

Being a member of the executive committee is a plumb appointment.

“Everybody from Northeastern Wisconsin wants to be on the board of directors, and everybody on the board of directors wants to be on the executive committee,” former Packers lead director Larry Weyers told the Press-Gazette in 2010.

That hasn’t changed.

“As directors, we have two roles,” Olson said. “We’re directors of a very financially successful organization, but we’re also stewards of basically a national treasure and an international icon. We understand that and try to act appropriately.”

In the 2010 reporting, a number of directors were interviewed and several said they felt like the executive committee and the board were drifting apart, though others maintained that, with such a large board, the system works as well as it can.

"The challenge with our board is it is so big," Murphy said. "It's really through the committee structure where the real decisions and business takes place."

Contact and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG, onInstagram at rrymanpgor on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342.

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