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Cooking The Packers' Books

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As the Journal-Sentinel article says, the whole league is watching when the Packers release their annual financial statements. As the only publicly owned franchise, it has to release that data to it's shareholders while the rest of the teams hide their books so the players' union doesn't know exactly how much the teams are making.

Bottom line is that although the Packers revenues were up from $218 to $241 million, the net income was down from $21 million to $14 million. The J-S article comes across as putting the blame for the lower bottom line squarely on the players, who got $127 million in 2007 compared to $110 million in 2006. However, on the Packers own website, their article says first players' salaries did go up, but they also spent a lot on other stuff too.

The team also saw significant bumps in both team expenses (from $17.7 million to $26.5 million) and general and administrative expenses (from $27.5 million to $35.2 million). Those increases were due in part to the cost of strengthening the balance sheet through payments of long-term retirement obligations. The team makes annual payments to these funds but took the opportunity this year, coming off a successful season both on the field and financially, to make additional payments toward this future obligation.

There also was an impact from new contracts that were entered into with GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy, as well as costs related to the leadership transition to Murphy.

Paying expenses does not strengthen your balance sheet, but whatever. Strengthening the long-term retirement obligations? Maybe it had something to do with the costs related to new President Mark Murphy's "leadership transition" and a nice new golden parachute for him if he flames out like the team's last successor to Bob Harlan.

Overall revenues were up by 10%, players' salaries were up by 8%, and other administrative expenses were up a whopping 64%. Those administrative expense are probably all fine and legitimate, but don't lay any blame for a decline in net profit at the players' feet. Bottom line, the NFL and the Packers are making a lot of money and while the players are making their fair share, their bosses are doing very well too.

I don't know why the J-S article decided to point out "red flags" because the team is still showing a healthy $12 million net profit, which is a number they can fudge anyway. Their cash flow is probably even better. Plus they're sitting on a rainy day fund of around $150 million. The team has probably never been in better financial shape, and could weather any fiscal storm that might hit.