Forget any plans of owning small piece of Rooneys' team

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Who would want to own stock that never appreciates, doesn't pay dividends and has a minimal redemption price?

More than 112,000 Cheeseheads in Green Bay, Wis., that's who.

No big-shot dot-com billionaires, oil tycoons or industrialists call the shots for the Green Bay Packers. Instead, the nonprofit team is owned by people like you and me, making it one of a kind in American professional sports.

"Of all the reasons that make the Green Bay Packers and their story so incredible and unique, the most significant is simply this: The team is literally owned by its fans," according to the Packers' Web site.

While the Packers might have a messy quarterback controversy on their hands with Brett Favre wanting to unretire, at least the unusual ownership structure of the storied franchise is on rock-solid ground. There are 44 directors and a seven-member executive committee.

The opposite holds true for the Steelers, who have a stable franchise quarterback but a tricky ownership crisis to resolve.

Dan Rooney and his four brothers are working to restructure the Steelers' ownership to comply with NFL prohibitions against associations with racetrack and gambling interests.

Several Steelers fans have inquired through online forums why the team can't sell stakes to the public as a solution.

"Rather than sell to outside investor[s] would it make sense to open a number of shares to the fans or season ticket holders?" asked one 35-year ticket holder.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has an easy answer to whether a public ownership structure a la the Packers is feasible: "No."

"Under our current rules there's no public ownership permitted of a team," he said.

No more than 25 people can own an interest in an NFL team, and the controlling owner must have a 30 percent stake.

"The reason for those rules is for accountability so ... the operation of the team is clearly defined, there's accountability in one person and it makes for more efficient decision-making," Aiello said.

He called the Packers' structure a "historical aberration that's been accepted."

Since 1923 there have been four public stock offerings in what is now Green Bay Packers Inc. that have created 4,750,936 shares.

Don't expect even one in Pittsburgh.


Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.


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