SBJ/June 20 - 26, 2005/Other News

NFL’s Packers count the green: $25M net

The Green Bay Packers earned a record $25 million in their most recent fiscal year, but the club warned that the league’s problems in reaching a labor deal with its union could leave the publicly owned franchise on slippery financial footing.

While a newly renovated Lambeau Field continues to pad the bottom line of the team in the league’s smallest market, club executives said there is almost too much attention focused on crafting an internal revenue-sharing plan among the teams and not enough on collective-bargaining negotiations.

“We don’t know if it will be worked out,” John Jones, the Packers’ chief operating officer, said of the labor talks. “It feels to us that revenue sharing has gotten a lot of media attention, maybe more than it deserves. We believe we will solve that revenue-sharing issue. But we will have some very difficult negotiations with the players association.”

As a result of this uncertainty, the Packers planned to announce Sunday the creation of the Packers Franchise Preservation Fund, essentially a renamed corporate reserve fund. The difference is the new fund will not be used for operations but would be ready in the event of a major disturbance such as a labor dispute.

“We don’t have a deep-pocketed owner,” unlike most NFL teams, Jones said.

The fund at the close of fiscal 2005, which ended March 31, contained $97.7 million, up nearly $13 million from last year’s corporate reserve fund.

Total Packers revenue topped $200 million, a 12 percent increase, boosted by a major surge in local revenue. The newly renovated Lambeau Field opened in 2003, and has helped keep the Packers the 10th-highest team in the NFL in revenue for three years in a row.

Local revenue rose 12.7 percent to $89 million, with the increase in concessions, merchandising and sponsorships.

The club’s share of national money from league TV contracts rose to $84 million, a $3 million increase. But “other” NFL revenue, which encompasses leaguewide licensing and sponsorship income, almost doubled to $14.5 million.

Driven by new deals with companies such as Sirius Satellite Radio and Gatorade, the NFL’s business ventures division has been surging.

The Packers’ increase, if translated to the other 31 teams, means the league’s non-TV businesses distributed $464 million, up from $233.6 million the year before.

The Packers’ profit from operations was $33.4 million, up from $29 million the year before. The 2004 fiscal-year figure included an expansion-fee payment from the Houston Texans, after tax, of $2.1 million, but the most recent year does not.

The Packers are the only NFL team to disclose its financials. The team is owned by more than 106,000 individual shareholders, most of them fans. The club does not list on an exchange, however.

The league bans public ownership of its teams, but the Packers, who have been public since the 1920s, were exempt from the rule.

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