Report: Veteran dealmaker starts pro football league
William Hambrecht has made a career -- and gobs of money -- challenging the Wall Street establishment. Now he's building a professional football league where teams would be publicly-traded and fans part-owners.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- William Hambrecht, the renowned dealmaker whose made a career of challenging Wall Street norms, is starting a professional football league where fans could one day be part-owners, according to a news report.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Hambrecht, the 62-year-old founder of WR Hambrecht + Company, has formed the United Football League (UFL) with Google (Charts, Fortune 500) senior executive Tim Armstrong to compete directly with the National Football League (NFL).
While the new league is still in the early planning stages, the Times reported, Hambrecht is looking to line up seven more owners and to field eight teams to play in the league starting in August 2008.
Hambrecht and Armstrong will each invest $2 million in the new league. According to the report, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-founder of high-definition television network HDNet, will be the first owner of a UFL team.
Hambrecht told the Times that he sees an opportunity in the NFL's monopoly, which gives it little incentive to expand. He said he plans to add professional football teams in major cities now lacking a pro franchise. Of the country's top 50 TV markets, 21 of them don't have an NFL team.
Plans calls for UFL teams in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Mexico City. Owners would pay $30 million for a 50 percent stake in the franchise; the league would own the other half.
According to the report, the teams would eventually go public, thereby allowing fans to become shareholders. The team owner, the league, and the shareholders would each own a third of the franchise.
As novel as the plan is, the Times noted that the UFL faces tough odds. The NFL has proven to be a ruthless competitor, crushing four would-be rivals. Among other hurdles, the new league would have to secure television contracts, find stadiums in major cities, and sign top-notch players to rival the NFL's level of play.
The UFL has already suffered one major setback: Wall Street financier Boone Pickens intended to buy one of the league's teams but has since changed his mind, the report stated.
Hambrecht, however, is used to defying naysayers and shaking up the status quo. WR Hambrecht, the investment house he launched in 1998, has roiled Wall Street by dramatically cutting the cost to companies of going public.
Hambrecht is also no stranger to professional football -- and its inner workings. In the 1980s, he was a minority owner in a team that played in the United States Football League, an earlier attempt to compete with the NFL that disbanded after three seasons.