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The Packers Go Corporate

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The Packers Go Corporate

I can't recommend this article from Rob Demovsky and Pete Dougherty enough. They have taken a look at an aspect of the Packers that doesn't get talked about much, yet one that is extremely important - namely, the shift that has occurred away from the family feel that predominated Bob Harlan's tenure as President and CEO of the Packers to the much more corporate feel under current CEO Mark Murphy.

Demovsky and Dougherty pay particular attention to the departure of Jason Wied, for good reason in my opinion. His departure is a major flashpoint in the transformation:

With Wied, the Packers had a key administrator with strong local ties, and some thought him to be the ideal candidate to succeed Murphy.

For one, Wied was well versed in NFL matters and regularly attended league meetings with Harlan. He also is a graduate of the former Green Bay Premontre High School, the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University Law School, and in his 11 years with the Packers had developed strong relations within the team’s offices and in the community at large.

Whatever his weaknesses — sources said he tended to be unorganized — Wied exuded a genuineness that played well in the community. That perhaps was best exemplified in his folksy speeches on the team’s capital projects that went over well at Packers shareholders meetings.

“Jason was the guy who used to have all the rapport with the city council, the mayor, the county executive,” said a source with ties to the Packers and community. “I was always impressed in our meetings when Jason would outline a strategy, he had it very well in hand.”

With Wied’s resignation in January, a key member of Murphy’s administration is Tim Connolly, who has been the team’s vice president of sales and marketing since May 2010. Connolly was an executive with IBM and in the telephone industry and also an administrative vice president for the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Murphy hired Connolly with the help of an executive search firm — another nod to the Packers’ changing culture — to grow local revenue, which consists of regular and premium seating, concession and retail sales, Internet initiatives and local media.

 Several sources said Wied and Tim Connolly clashed regularly on matters that fell into gray areas of responsibility, such as the new scoreboard that was scheduled to be in place last season but won’t be ready until this fall; the decision on whether to sell stock this winter; and the building of more premium seating in the south end zone at Lambeau.Connolly also was involved in helping fill the Packers’ vacancy at public-relations director last summer even though the PR department, at least at that time, was among Wied’s responsibilities.Connolly became involved in the design of the Packers’ Super Bowl rings last year, duties that usually go to the football side of the operation. After the Packers’ win in Super Bowl XXXI in the 1996 season, former General Manager Ron Wolf and former coach Mike Holmgren handled those duties.

One source said Wied resigned because of the grind of daily office politics and the feeling he’d lost Murphy’s confidence, not the addiction issues. Wied would not comment on his departure because of a confidentiality agreement he signed with the Packers. Murphy also would not comment on whether he had wanted Wied to return, citing health privacy.

I have to be honest - I loathe the idea of local guy Wied being forced out in favor of corporate-search-produced Connolly. And I'd love to hear from the "sources" that said Wied tended to be "unorganized" - that was certainly never the impression I got when dealing with him and certainly not from those people I've spoken to both inside and outside the organization that dealt with him on a regular basis.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those romantics who thinks the Packers can be run the way they were back in the 90s and that the movement forward in this regard is some great travesty. The current demands of staying competitive in the NFL demand that the Packers evolve.

Nowhere does that idea manifest itself more than in this line from Demovsky and Dougherty:

In the late 1990s, the Packers had about 150 full- and part-time administrative employees; that number now is 600. In 1998, they generated $82 million in revenue; last year, $282 million.

Where I do get concerned is in regards to the balancing act that remains necessary when it comes to the Packers and their relationship with the community. More than any NFL team, the Packers must remain cognizant of their unique position in the NFL. Things that have worked in other NFL cities are not always great ideas in Green Bay. And more than any one action, Murphy and company need to remember that the people of Green Bay, and fans of the team from all over the world, identify with this team as though it is a family member.

Murphy was put in some tough spots at the start of his tenure and came out looking smarter and stronger. The Brett Favre situation would have driven out a lesser man. But he has also overseen some questionable moves, the most recent example being the decision to raise ticket prices for the third year in a row, hot on the heels of a stock sale that brought in millions of dollars.

Yes, in today's NFL, the Packers must constantly dig up new revenue streams. However, they must must always balance that need with the relationship they have with their unique fan base. What the Packers have done is "gone corporate" just enough...but any more might push the balance too far.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jrunde10's picture

Not a season ticket holder but I understand the ticket rise. Prices across all industries have had no choice but to go up the past three years.

jrunde10's picture

There were a number of quotes that worry me. First, the related article about Connelly states:

"“I think Tim’s a terrific talent. He just needs to be managed, and if left unattended it becomes his franchise.”"

In plain English, "Connolly is talented, but needs to be kept in check by his superiors or he will be a tremendous control freak."

Second, in the actual article it states:

"They worry that Murphy and Connolly will be relative short-timers and not have to live with any major changes that could erode the team’s connection to the city, county and state."

Connolly's history in Minnesota seemed pretty alarming to me-- like he was forced out for controlling things that were outside of his responsibilities. That's not to say he wasn't successful in Kansas City or Jacksonville, just those responsibilities seemed isolated to a specific project. So I am definitely worried that Connolly's duties are more administrative than expanding local revenue. Trying to have a say in the ring design really rubbed me the wrong way to. Yes it is just a ring design, but I find it a little audacious that Connolly has no problem chiming in on something that has always been reserved for people on the football operations side.

The amount of anonymous sources in this article worries me, mainly because it shows a friction and an atmosphere of distrust within management. Like this: “I’ve been trying to figure out why this guy (Connolly) has so much power and control over things,” said another Packers administrative employee. There's always going to be corporate politics within any organization. But, I see it as a little more than healthy politics, when people are worrying about power struggles in a period that is crucial to the future of the franchise.

The expansion plans for the stadium and surrounding district seem to be challenging enough. My main conclusion is that I realize how important this VP hiring really is. If Connolly was brought in for revenue expansion, why are people speculating the Weid quit because Connolly was dipping his pen in the VP's ink? First, Murphy has to keep Connolly in check and has to keep Connolly's eye on the prize. Connolly is here to expand local revenue and just that. Second, the VP has to have ownership of the job and make sure Connolly is not edging in on those responsibilities. Lastly, I think Connolly is the right man for the revenue expansion projects given his history, he just needs to stay out of the President's/VP's responsibilities.

Definitely a must read for all packer fans. I hope there are as many comments for this as there are for a Favre post. READ THE STORY PACKER FANS!

NoWayJose's picture

Good article. Personally, I've been generally happy with what I've seen from this administration. I think they've struck a good balance between proactive development (stadium, surrounding infrastructure, etc) and maintaining the traditions that matter.

Nerdmann's picture

To me it sounds like Weid is an "anonymous source." Of course he can't go on the record, because of his confidentiality agreement.
As for Connolly, maybe he's a bit too much of a "go-getter," but isn't that a GOOD thing in a corporate environment? If I didn't want him doing my job, I'd probably tend to, you know, DO IT MYSELF.
I don't think the Packers organization is "losing touch" with the fanbase. Then again, maybe they did so a bit during the Favre fiasco? How'd that turn out?
If all this administration does is build a dynasty and win the Superbowl, I'm not gonna complain.
I sure don't wanna go back to the days of Judge Parins and his cronies.
And let's be real. The Packers are a Jesuit operation. How many coaches have NOT been Roman Catholics? How many Presidents have been from someplace other than Marquette, Notre Dame, NorthWestern, Georgetown or some other Jesuit university?

Oppy's picture

I'll take the headline "The Packers Go Corporate" over "The Packers Go Broke" EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Even with all the price hikes, the Packers average ticket price still sits almost exactly in the middle of the pack, so to speak, across all NFL teams' average ticket prices.

packeraaron's picture

<em>I’ll take the headline “The Packers Go Corporate” over “The Packers Go Broke” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.</em>

Pretty sure the two don't have to be related.

Oppy's picture

I guess my point is, "The Packers go Corporate" feels like it's got a negative connotation. I don't see much negative with the direction the Packers, as an organization, are heading.

Bearmeat's picture

The Green Bay Packers are a singularly unique franchise in the world of pro sports. It IS more important for them to keep local ties than any other franchise.

That being said, it's downright impossible to follow a living legend, and Bob Harlan is one.

Murphy has a different managerial style than Harlan did; and he should - he needs to be himself in order to succeed. It sounds to me like the sources interviewed for this article (which BTW is the best Packer article on packersnews.com since Pelissero left), miss Bob more than anything else. Murphy is not as immediately likable as Harlan was. Few people are.

Connolly seems like a control freak, but I don't know him - so I'm not the one to judge. Plus, since Murphy handled Favregate so well in his first year on the job, I'm not worried at all about his ability to keep the message unified and remove problems at the vice president level.

Murphy has been doing the right things in his tenure so far. He's acknowledged the changing economic landscape in the NFL, and the unique advantages and challenges the Packers have in that landscape when compared to billionaires like Jerrah and the Danimal in DC.

I do think the best point the article underlines is the continuing need for any executive of the Green Bay Packers to be reminded of how uniquely important their constituency is. Murphy is a smart guy. I trust him to make sure that is the case in all levels of the organization.

Mojo's picture

Going from 150 to 600 hundred employees is a tremendous jump. Hope they don't all end up tripping over or undermining each other.
On the other hand we'll take any kind of job growth we can get here in Wisconsin.

I think in the 90's the Packers looked hard at the long-term sustainability of the franchise and with player salaries skyrocketing they concluded they needed to find other revenue enhancers. Although I hope none of the expansion doesn't get out of hand and squelch the charm and unique story that is the Packers, I'm all for a perennial contender and strenghening the coffers so the Pack never have to worry about folding the tent again or acquiring desired players.

Don Hutson's picture

Make a bold move. Sell Ziggy on the idea of a new Queens Stadium 10 miles into WI. across the St Croix.

AndrewInAtlanta's picture

I wonder if Andrew Brandt could have bridged the local-corporate gap a bit better than Murphy. I've always wondered that just because he had so much knowledge of the organization

Nerdmann's picture

There are three disgruntled former employees of which we are aware:
John Jones (presumably fired for being an "A-hole.")
Andrew Brandt (presumably fired for coveting Harlan's job after Jones' departure, as well as possibly leaking stuff to the press.)
Weil.
To my knowledge, Weil was the only one who was "local."

packeraaron's picture

Wied.

Nerdmann's picture

Yeah, Weid.

FITZCORE1252&#039;s EVO's picture

Weed?

Rocky70's picture

Per Wiki.

"The Green Bay Packers have the most famous waiting list, with more than 90,000 names. Turnover is generally low; the Packers estimate that only 90 tickets turn over every year, a rate which would mean a name placed on the list today would be eligible for season tickets in 1000 years."

Pick any organizational climate you like, as long as the above exists, so do the Packers in GB.

Ruppert's picture

I find it interesting that somebody thought the league would be pushing to move the Packers out of Green Bay today had they not gotten the stadium renovation approved. While the Pack's revenue would certainly be much less, I think that statement is hardly a given. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about it now.

I can't see much to like about Connolly. Don't like ticket prices going up for the 3rd straight year? Look no further than the hard charging marketing VP in charge of increasing local revenue.

The guy wanted to be more involved in the personnel decisions of the Vikings, even though he had very little (if any) experience in that area. He clashed with the coach, and left the Vikings to join an equity firm that was trying to buy an NHL team in the desert?! Huh?

So he comes to the Packers and horns his way into the Championship Ring design and the bigger scoreboard project??? Talk about wandering from your area of expertise.

This seriously concerns me. I realize I don't know the guy at all, and I could be totally mistaken, but this fits the profile of a self promoter. I just see a big talker (see sales background).

If I am right, I cannot imagine this playing well in Green Bay. And what concerns me even more is the thought that Mark Murphy is the type of leader who would buy the line of crap from a guy like this.

You know who would probably have stories about this guy? Pope Vic Ketchman. They were both with the Jags. Too bad there's probably no way to pry anything out of ol' Pope Vic.

Aaron, here's your challenge: Befriend Vic and get us some good dope on Connolly! :) Good luck!

Nerd&#039;s Laptop's picture

This Connolly dude comes off like a corporate douchebag. But that's just the kind of guy you want in a major corporate environment. A "self starter." A guy who's a "go getter." He'll get his stuff done and then look for other stuff to do.
You don't want A-Holes. There is a popular management book out nowadays called THE NO ASSHOLE RULE. I don't mean to offend, but that's what it's called. One such fellow can decrease productivity organization wide.
But that's not the same as being an "organization man." Like I said, if you don't want him doing your job, get it done yourself.

Oppy's picture

The more I think about this article (by Dougherty/Demovsky), the more it seems that the whole focus is that the Packers are being run by a bunch of out-of-towners.

Um, really?

Isn't it the Board of Directors that wield ultimate control? Aren't they mostly local businessmen and women? Or am I mistaken?

People don't seem to care that the coaching staff and the players aren't from Green Bay..

I don't understand how Wied's resignation set off red flags. Frankly, I don't see much of any use for it.

What it feels like to me is someone has an axe to grind. Who that person is I don't know. The article feels forced- as though someone is looking for an issue. I just don't get it.

packeraaron's picture

I completely understand where you're coming from Oppy. I know the article set off quite a different set of reactions with fans and with people who deal with the organization on a daily basis, be it reporters or NFL administrators. I don't think its a "the team is being run by outsiders" article. I think its a "there's been a real change in culture." That's neither good nor bad. But its marked.

Mojo's picture

Right Aaron, the crux of the article was the scope and style of management , but the addition of "outsiders" was a subtext. For those of you bothered by that, keep in mind Harlan(who did have ties to MU) was from Iowa and worked for the baseball Cardinals before coming to GB. And as Jon Gruden might say "that guy - did a fantastic job"

Oppy's picture

It almost seems implied that the change in culture is the result of new management, and it is definitely implied (at least) that it might not be a good thing for the Packers.

The feel I get from the article- the vibe I get, which may be different from what others feel- is that under Murphy, decisions are being made, personnel is being shifted, that is taking the Packers far away from the home-town, "family run" feel- more than once the notion that "Mark Murphy is no Bob Harlan" comes up- maybe not in a negative tone, but it's in such a way as to make one think "this wouldn't be happening under Harlan".

The paradox in the article (contrasting to the overall feel) is that they state clearly:

"Harlan oversaw the biggest step into this culture of change in 2002, when the Packers moved from their small annex offices on the northwest side of the stadium to their five-story structure at renovated Lambeau. Several longtime employees said Harlan’s mantra after the move was the Packers are getting more corporate, but they don’t have to be cold and corporate."

I guess that could set the undertone of the article towards "Mark Murphy is making the Packers Cold". Yeah, I'm stretching and connecting dots here.

While there is some interesting information in their piece, it seems confused and pointed, like they're kinda waving a stick with frustration at no one in particular.

PiedmontPackerFan's picture

The Packer Board is so large that it can't be anything other than a ceremonial position. By comparison, a publicly - held company with $282 Mil of revenue will have certainly less than ten Board members, maybe less than five. My point is that an ineffective Board places more power in Mark Murphy. But this board size has always been the case with the Packers. So while I agree with you that in normal situations, the Board can influence policy at a company, the Packers' structure is an exception. I am not disagreeing with your overall point, though.

Ken's picture

One thing that I've noticed (and complained about here) is that the experience at Lambeau has turned into an infomerical since the the start of the 2010 season. I guess that would correlate with Connolly's rise.

Murphy has a law degree and MBA in tow. He's a sharp guy. But maybe he felt threatened by Wied's presence?

Connolly is ultimately responsible for the ticket price increase. That falls under his control.

Oppy's picture

Are you saying the price hike is a bad thing, and Connolly is to blame? Or just basically saying "Connolly is doing his job, which includes raising ticket prices?"

As I stated above, I don't see anything wrong with keeping the Packers average ticket prices almost exactly in the middle of the NFL average. They certainly aren't gouging.

Point Packer's picture

I agree with the infomercial comment.

I know it is consistent across the NFL, but you get bombarded with crap all game now. Wasn't like that even three years ago at Lambeau.

I almost gagged when instead of the Stones "Start Me Up" at kick-off they were playing that wretched "Tonight's Going to Be a Good Night" junk. I'm sure that decision was at some level monetary.

But at least the beers are somewhat cheap, if you don't somehow stumble into the Leinie Lodge. Back west here in Seattle, you ain't getting the crappiest of water beer for less than $8.50.

At the end of the day, I hope the current regime understands the need to balance tradition and local ties with the reality based need to make money in this NFL.

FITZCORE1252&#039;s EVO's picture

You're in Seattle eh? You know the Pack plays at the Clink next year... Gonna be driving up from Oly. You going?

Point Packer's picture

Totally going. Nothing better than watching the Pack destroy the sleepy Seahawks and their lame fans. Been to 12 NFL stadiums - Seattle has the weakest most boring passive fans by far. 12th man whatever.

gratif's picture

By their consumers, the Packers are viewed as more of a culture than a brand. Like Apple.

PiedmontPackerFan's picture

Using "In 1998, they generated $82 million in revenue; last year, $282 million." and the corresponding employee count at 150 / 600, this means revenue per employee dropped from $540,000 to $470,000 or 13%. To me this is a red flag of bloat. Revenue per employee should be increasing, not decreasing. Maybe I'll ask about this at the next shareholders' meeting...

RedLine's picture

Some context may be helpful. Last year was still a bad year for the economy. With new seats as part of Lambeau upgrades, revenues should jump appreciably. Also, no home playoff games.

I see this article as pot-stirring. Unnamed sources could be disgruntled employees, and you can find them anywhere. Wied wasn't a savior, so just because he's gone doesn't mean much. What I found most interesting was the number of women in senior level positions that left - very curious.

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