In the Owners Box: Should You Buy Shares in Your Favorite Sports Team?

should you buy stock in your favorite sports teamThe Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers got the NFL's approval this week to sell more stock to the public, but even the Pack can't compete with the buzz of another anticipated "football" stock offering.

Manchester United, the English soccer club valued at $1.8 billion by Forbes and perhaps more by its rabid global fan base, is pondering an initial public offering. The club could reap $2.8 billion from wannabe "owners" if and when it begins to list on Singapore's stock exchange, according to reports. David Gill, the club's chief executive, told the Daily Telegraph a sale could be "beneficial" for the 19-time Premier League champion.

Demand, especially among Singaporean fans, was already high, and would undoubtedly grow across a soccer-crazy planet if the team thaws its cold feet. (DailyFinance tried to reach Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer through his other team, the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but was referred to an after-business hours contact in England.)

As a novelty investment, shares in a sports franchise are a winning bet. As assets that will appreciate, they are often anything but. "You invest with your brain, not with your heart," said Mitch Slater, senior vice president of investments for UBS Financial Services (UBS) . "I think you should keep your sports passion separate from your investing portfolio."

Slater reminds any aficionados with foam "No. 1" fingers in their hands and dollar signs in their eyes to face reality. Investing a large sum in big-time athletic ventures is risky. High-priced players get hurt. Fan interest can be fickle. Besides, the limited partnerships often available can cap or prohibit a return on investment while eliminating dividends. Slater suggests fans spend their money on attending actual games instead of on a certificate that hangs on the wall.

Back in the 1980s, this reporter bought about $100 worth of stock in the then-public Boston Celtics. Shares were worth about $15 if memory serves, and when it came time to part with the stock, the price was about the same. Partial ownership provided fun bar talk, but not much else.

The Packers, already the NFL's only publicly held team, will reportedly sell shares at $200 a pop to finance stadium renovations. The organization is keeping mum until it can tackle regulatory matters, according to the Associated Press. Stockholders will score a few perks, too, such as voting privileges, tours of the stadium and a seat at the team's annual meeting. But they won't be making trades or kibitzing with the players, profiting on ROI, or reaping dividends. No gifting will be allowed either, except to heirs. The Packers had their first stock sale in 1923 and their last in 1997, accumulating 4,748,910 shares owned by 111,507 stockholders, says the team website.

One of the team's celebrity followers told DailyFinance he has no plans to become No. 111,508. Dominic Fumusa, a Wisconsin native who plays Edie Falco's husband on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie, said, "Nobody is a bigger Packer fan than me, but this makes as much sense to me as people who pay money to have a star in the sky named after a loved one."

For those who simply must have their slice of ownership glory, here are a few other sports stocks to consider:

MSG Inc. (MSG): Buy this company, and you get the NBA's Knicks (currently idle), Madison Square Garden and a sports network. A slam dunk, right? The stock closed Wednesday up 2.8% to $23.46 but is still down from its 52-week high of $30.21. The New York Post is no buyer, saying that shareholders are courting disaster.

• A.S. Roma (ASR): The Italian soccer team lists on the Borsa Italiana, and we mean lists. A.S. Roma tripped from $1.12 a share on April 15 to .66 cents Wednesday. Mamma mia, that sounds like a bargain. The team is in sixth place in Serie A, the top Italian level, but has a new stadium in the works.

• Rangers FC (RFC): The Scottish soccer champions have also tumbled in price, from $36 in June to $18 now. Could be jitters from an 85% takeover in June by a firm named Wavetower. You can get your kicks, but no dividends.



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