MILWAUKEE -- The Green Bay Packers sold more than 268,000 shares of stock in their most recent stock offering, raising $67 million dollars to help fund stadium improvements, the team said Thursday.
The Packers, the NFL's only publicly owned team, added more than 250,000 new shareholders during the six-week offering, raising the total to more than 360,000 part-owners of the team.
"I was really pleased with the way our fans responded," Mark Murphy, the team's president and CEO, said. "I was a little surprised, to be honest, but on the other hand I'm never surprised by the passion and loyalty of our fans."
The team initially offered 250,000 shares for sale starting Dec. 6. But the allotment went quickly, with 185,000 shares alone sold within the first 48 hours. So the team made another 30,000 available.
About half the total sales were in Wisconsin, which is famous for its rabid Packers fans, known as cheeseheads. Sales were also brisk in the home states of two of the team's top rivals, the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
The shares weren't cheap -- they cost $250 each, plus handling fees of $25 in the U.S. and $35 in Canada. They're also essentially worthless.
Packers stock isn't like regular stock. Its value doesn't increase, there are no dividends, it has virtually no resale value and it doesn't give buyers any advantage over the 93,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets.
What buyers do get is a piece of paper declaring them a team owner and conferring rights to attend and vote at the annual stockholder meeting, which is held at Lambeau Field each summer before training camp. They also get access to a special line of shareholder apparel.
Those perks are only fringe benefits for Packers fan Connie Overmier, 60, a Wisconsin native who now lives in Ossian, Ind. She and her husband own more than 600 pieces of Packers paraphernalia -- pillows, stuffed animals, even a birdhouse -- and even with her husband out of work for 2½ years, she said they had to add a share of stock to their collection.
"This was an opportunity that we were not going to pass up," Overmier said. "It's the Packers. I want to be an owner. I want to be a part of them."
She said she bought the share online immediately after watching the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 46-16 on Dec. 11 to improve to 13-0.
Murphy said the ability to buy shares over the Internet and the team's dominant start to its season in defense of the Super Bowl title helped drive the avalanche of sales.
The team will apply the $67 million in proceeds toward a $143 million expansion of Lambeau Field that would add 6,700 seats, new high-definition video screens and a new entrance by 2013.
The Packers are funding the renovations themselves and through private funding. They aren't asking taxpayers to contribute as owners of other teams typically do.
Shareholders will be asked to RSVP an invitation to the next shareholders meeting so the team can arrange to accommodate all the new owners, Murphy said.
About 50 percent of the new shareholders came from in Wisconsin. Illinois and California tied for second, each accounting for about 8.5 percent of sales. Minnesota and Texas were next with 5 percent each.
Murphy said he wasn't surprised by the geographic distribution of sales, especially in California. He recalled that when the Packers played in San Diego last season, there were so many noisy Green Bay fans that the Chargers offense had to resort to a silent count.
"I've never seen that happen before," he said.
He also noted that fans across the country often tell him the Packers are their second-favorite team behind their home teams.
"I was in Dallas and people would say, 'I'm a huge Cowboys fan but I really like the idea of the Packers -- a small-market team, community-owned.' I think that appeals to a lot of people," he said.
Stock sales were initially limited to U.S. residents. The team eventually resolved Canadian regulatory requirements earlier this month, giving fans there nine days to buy in. The team says about 2,000 shares were sold north of the border.
The team has had four other stock offerings. Sales in 1923, 1935 and 1950 helped keep the Packers afloat at a time when other small-market teams were struggling to survive.
The most recent sale was in 1997. The team offered 400,000 shares for $200 apiece, but only about 120,000 shares were sold.