Weather chases Packers shareholders meeting indoors, but team's outlook sunny
GREEN BAY – Brian Gutekunst, in his first Green Bay Packers shareholders meeting as general manager, got rained out Wednesday.
Well, not entirely, but he ended up speaking to a TV camera and a room full of reporters after shareholders moved from Lambeau Field seats to the atrium, concourses and club seats about 20 minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. start. The possibility of rain and lightning chased the meeting inside for the first time in the 13 years since it moved to the Lambeau Field bowl.
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said the state of the team is good and Gutekunst ran through the offensive and defensive rosters, coaches, free agents, draft choices and other staff. He talked about their successes in the past and in a general way expectations for this year. It wasn’t a deep dive, but it was more information than predecessor Ted Thompson provided in the past several years.
And Gutekunst didn’t forget Thompson, calling him “one of the finest talent evaluators who's ever done this job.”
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The Packers have 360,760 owners holding 5.02 million shares. Shares are not traded and they are rarely sold. The last sale was in 2012 to help pay for south end zone expansion. No new sale is contemplated.
Green Bay is the smallest market in the National Football League and the Packers are the only team publicly owned. The Packers have a 45-member board of directors and seven-member executive committee.
Murphy addressed the issues of player protests during the national anthem. The league issued a policy that allowed protesting players to stay in the locker room, but the NFL Players Association filed a grievance and the two sides subsequently said they would try to work out a solution.
"It’s really proven to be a difficult issue. It’s divided our fans," Murphy said. "We have tremendous respect for our players. We’d like to move beyond protest to progress. What kind of programs can we work with with them to make a difference?
"I am optimistic. I think this is an opportunity for us to sit down with the NFLPA. This is an opportunity to work with the players association and reach a resolution."
» The Packers will play the maximum five prime-time games during the coming season and Green Bay at New England on Nov. 4 was the No. 1-ranked TV game of the season. "We remain popular with the networks," Murphy said.
» The Packers continue to pursue hosting the NFL draft in 2021 or after. "We are excited about the possibility of hosting the draft," Murphy said. "The key issue there is the new (Brown County) expo hall. We want to be sure that is up and running."
» The Packers are one of only two teams that have not played a game internationally and Murphy suggested they won't be going overseas or to Mexico anytime soon. The Packers won't give up a home game and other teams don't want to give up home games against the Packers.
» The first night meeting since the event moved into the Lambeau Field bowl in 2006 had 5,900 attendees when they emptied the stands. The record annual meeting attendance is 18,707, set in 1998, when the meeting also was held in Lambeau Field. For several years in the early 2000s, the meeting was at the Resch Center, but when the team had to turn away shareholders, it moved back to Lambeau.
» The Packers said revenue for the fiscal year, which ended March 31, was $454.9 million, $13.5 million more than last year. Expenses were $420.9 million, a $44.8 million increase. Since Lambeau Field was renovated in 2003, revenue has increased every year. The Packers ranked eighth in the NFL in revenue last year. Traditionally, the Packers are in the top 10, but it's getting harder and harder to do that as new stadiums open, Murphy said.
» The Packers said they made the equivalent of $8 million in charitable donations last year, either through the Packers Foundation or directly by the team. They also raised more than $2 million for charities during the years the Packers have held the annual Tailgate Tour.
» Nancy Armbrust, retired executive from Schreiber Foods Inc., Robyn Davis, president and CEO of United Way of Brown County, and Rob Gilson, president and CEO of Imperial Supplies, were elected to the team's board of directors. They succeed Mark McMullen, Packers treasurer, Beverly French and George Kerwin, who all reached mandatory retirement age of 70.
» The rain threat also caused the cancellation of a two-plane DC-3 flyover before the meeting. The Packers were the first NFL team to fly to a game, going from Green Bay to New York in 1940.
» Concourse renovation will include the addition this year of three grab-and-go concessions stands. More will be added in next two or three years.
» Murphy said the Packers soon will be announcing details of Phase 2 of the Titletown District, west of Lambeau Field, including 70 to 80 townhouses, an apartment building, and office building and more retail and commercial buildings.