A bigger say for the team's 'owners'?

Though the Green Bay Packers are the NFL's only publicly owned franchise, their fans have little say in choosing a team president. The next CEO will be selected by an 11-member committee. PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh spoke with some shareholders after the annual meeting Wednesday at Lambeau Field to gather their thoughts on voting for the next team president.

If anyone has a finger on the pulse of the Packers' fans, it is Bob Harlan. The Packers' chairman has been a most popular figurehead for the organization for nearly two decades and always makes time for the fans.

Consider some of the following examples. Harlan answers his own phone at his Lambeau Field office and even will return messages. He not only greets fans when he is out in public, but has conversations with them. He also makes himself regularly available for various community functions, and lastly, he is more approachable than most would be considering his position.

On Wednesday, after the annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field, he offered his thoughts on whether the fans should be given a bigger say on whom the team's next CEO should be. The topic was explored in this space July 12 on PackerReport.com. With a search officially under way for his successor, he thinks a scenario where the shareholders would be given a vote to select the next CEO, out of a couple of possible candidates, would be basically impractical.

"I think they're (the shareholders) very impressed with the process that is going on," he said. "This is going to be a very complete, thorough process with some very capable people both from the search committee and the search firm. I've got the impression, like I said I haven't got one call or one letter about this in weeks.

"I think we've got to do this with a smaller group. It's like the owners who sat down this year and picked (commissioner) Roger Goodell. Thirty-two people did it. You get the fans involved and everything, and it's tough. They relied on 32 owners to sit down and vote and get it done and it worked out. … I think you have got to do the same thing here. You've got an 11-man committee and that committee's got to pick who you're person is."

Because the Packers are structured as a publicly-owned team, thousands of shareholders have voting privileges to select the board of directors. Really, the proxies given to shareholders are nothing more than for approval of those already chosen, so the "voting" power is really a mere procedural activity.

To suggest that the shareholders vote on the most powerful position in the organization is an entirely different animal. It would take work and would be a profound move in the NFL circles, but what makes the Packers special is that they are different than any other team. They have always prided themselves on that and could make a change to again show just how much the fans mean to them.

A random sampling of shareholders who stuck around after Wednesday's meeting to experience Lambeau Field offered their opinions on whether they would be interested in voting on the team's next CEO. Here is what a small, but representative sample had to say:

Jim VanLokeren of Minneapolis:
"It's kind of a nice thought, but I really wouldn't be giving any intelligent input into it. I really just don't know what he does, what they're looking for, and really what his functioning roles would be there."

Bill Tushinski of Orlando:
"I would (be interested) as long as they kept us fully informed as to who the people were and how they were connected and how their names were brought up so that you had a chance to vote and do it intelligently. Not just put a name on a piece of paper and say, "Oh, I like this guy's name." If that could be done, I would be very interested."

Nancy Jacobe of Green Bay:
"There are a lot of things that we probably wouldn't be informed of that maybe you would find out during the interview process and background checks and things that you can't make public knowledge of. So I think we would probably not be informed enough to make a good decision… I think the next CEO is going to be very important because Bob Harlan set the bar very high. The team has not only done well financially, but their reputation as a corporation is very high. So whoever comes in is going to have to maintain that."

Harlan also said on Wednesday that he has received many more calls and letters about the possibility of acquiring Randy Moss this off-season than he did about the Packers' search for a new CEO after the fallout with John Jones. His comments suggested that the shareholders and fans might be more interested in direct football matters than what is going on with the administration. At least one shareholder, though, begged to differ.

"I think he might be underestimating us there because we are really concerned," said Ron Verdegan of Altoona, Wis., who is a big fan of Harlan and described him as almost irreplaceable. "It would be hard for the Packers' corporation to get everyone to vote, but it would be nice to see the input from us shareholders, just to see how it would work out."

For now, the Packers will go forth with a search committee and a hired firm out of Chicago to help seek Harlan's successor. No changes in the voting powers of the shareholders are imminent, nor does it appear like anything will happen in the future. That seems just fine to some.

"We have to trust the committee to do it," said Jacobe, "because they will have all the knowledge and information."

Matt Tevsh

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.

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