A Wisconsin native, Underwood worked as Packers treasurer to secure the long-term financial viability of the franchise. During his tenure, the Packers started, completed and shared in the financing of the original Lambeau Field redevelopment.
Former Packers President/CEO Bob Harlan described Underwood’s work on the redevelopment as invaluable from the beginning to the end of the project.
“In the late ’90s, as the building boom was going on in the NFL and everyone was moving into new stadiums and moving ahead of us in revenue, we looked at where player costs were going to go in the next 5-6 years and the revenue we could expect from Lambeau Field, and we knew we’d have to make a move or we’d have grave financial problems by 2005,” Harlan said in a brief interview with packers.com.
“We put together a smaller project, took a look at it, but felt in another 2-3 years we’d have to do something again. So we decided to go for one big total change to the stadium and open it 365 days a year. John laid it all out for me, every step of the way from 1999 all the way through, and we moved ahead. His guidance there was very, very valuable and really helped us.”
Underwood also served on league committees that dealt with revenue sharing, collective bargaining and competitive balance.
“He was respected around the league and did a great job with revenue sharing,” Harlan said. “He was able to explain the problems Green Bay would be facing, and the word got out what Green Bay was going through. His involvement in league committees was very important at that particular time.”
According to a published obituary in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Underwood often described his work for the Packers as “the preservation of a national treasure.” Harlan agreed that’s how Underwood went about his duties, saying he had “great respect and great passion” for the organization and was “very sincere” about it.
Underwood first came to Green Bay in 1977 and was elected president and CEO of First Wisconsin National Bank of Green Bay. He retired from that position in 1996. Harlan was on the bank’s board of directors for a time and said he came to respect how Underwood ran his bank.
“When I became president, I decided he was someone I wanted to get on our executive committee and upgrade us,” Harlan said. “We were going to face some major decisions and need all the help we could get financially, and John gave us that help.”
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