SBD/February 20, 2012/Franchises

Packers Working To Balance Big Business In A Small Market

Packers in midst of $143M stadium expansion to keep up with big-market teams
To keep pace financially with "wealthy owners such as" the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, the Packers have “become bigger and more corporate,” according to Dougherty & Demovsky of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. But in the “arms race for revenue, the Packers must remain rooted in the small community that spawned the team and has kept it alive through sometimes dire financial times for the last 93 years.” Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said, “Obviously we’re a bigger organization than we were 10 or 15 years ago, but I think we’ve done it in a way where we haven’t really changed the values. I think we’re cognizant of that.” The Packers are “in the middle of a $143 million stadium expansion and have spent nearly $28 million on land around Lambeau that they will be looking to develop in the near future.” Still, recent illustrations of the “pitfalls the Packers face when weighing business versus community is their relationship with the Packers Hall of Fame and the resignation” of team VP/Administration & General Counsel Jason Wied. The HOF in the Lambeau Field Atrium is an independent corporation, but the team “recently broached the possibility of taking over the Hall.” Sources said that the HOF’s exec committee and board “were outraged.” A source said, “The franchise has to be careful it doesn’t get too big and think, ‘We don’t need people.’” Dougherty & Demovsky wrote Wied’s departure “was a watershed day because for the first time in team history, the Packers didn’t have a president or No. 2 administrator with long ties to the team and Wisconsin.” The resignation “raised concerns about the increasing corporatization of the franchise and suggested the bonds might be stretched between the Packers and the NFL’s smallest community.” With Wied, the Packers had “a key administrator with strong local ties, and some thought him to be the ideal candidate to succeed Murphy.” But Murphy “disputed the notion that Wied’s departure has weakened the Packers’ local ties and pointed to, among other things, the team’s community outreach department started under his watch.” Murphy: “I’ve been here a little over four years and I think I understand the culture of the Packers.”

PASSING THE BATON: Following Wied’s resignation in January, a “key member of Murphy’s administration is” VP/Sales & Marketing Tim Connolly. In the 21 months Connolly has been with the organization, he has “become a dominant figure with an approach that some characterize as hard charging and others regard as too aggressive and occasionally heavy-handed for this market.” Team sources said that Connolly “appears to be taking the lead in most projects of note.” Wied’s leave of absence in November '11 and resignation last month “set off red flags.” His stated public reason “was an addiction to an herbal anti-anxiety treatment, but other issues may have contributed.” Several sources said that Wied and Connolly “clashed regularly on matters that fell into gray areas of responsibility.” Murphy said, “The league is becoming complex. It’s not the league that the Packers competed in (during) the Lombardi era, it’s become a much different business and I think at this level we need expertise to make sure the Packers remain competitive. Where you find that expertise is (another matter)” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/19).
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