Bill Hambrecht, founder of I-banking substitute WR Hambrecht & Co. wants to start a football league with Tim Armstrong at Google and Mark Cuban. Aspiring NFL competitors have a history of staying afloat for about as long as the Lusitania at a U-boat party, and Hambrecht has been a proud co-captain of at least one of these sinking ships – as a minority partner in the Oakland Invaders of the USFL (United States Football League), which folded after three years in 1985.
This time, the United Football League (Uniting Football rather than States this time) is bound to be successful, because it plans to focus on non-NFL cities and feature a public ownership structure. Buy your share of the Poughkeepsie Angry Pirates today. Hambrecht’s blistering chain of logic was basically that the Green Bay Packers are publicly owned and have an extremely loyal fan base willing to wear dairy products as accessories (something the 12 NFL championships (9 league championships before Super Bowls started and 3 Super Bowls) clearly have nothing to do with), so public ownership in small places must be an instant key to success. At least part public ownership, as teams will have a tripartite ownership structure between owners, the league and fans. Specifics from the New York Times:
Each owner will put up $30 million, giving him an initial half-interest in the team; the league will own the other half. But eventually the fans themselves will become shareholders — because each team is going to sell shares to the public. Then the owner, the league and the fans will each own a third of every franchise. Hambrecht and his executives believe that the initial public offerings will raise, on average, another $60 million per team, giving it about $90 million in working capital. They also hope that the stock sale will create intense fan loyalty.
So Billy H. has seen Rudy a couple of times and remains optimistic about the ability of guys with “heart” to provide footballtainment. After all, Tom Brady was a sixth rounder and Bill Walsh said the talent levels of the people cut from an NFL roster don’t differ much from the talent levels of the people who just make the team (in that you can say with equal conviction, “He’s no Jerry Rice”). This is actually part of Hambrecht's marketing spiel (or at least the denial portion of his stages of grief).
According to some random guy the New York Times asked (a “sports economist” at Stanford, which must have “sports economics” classes, which must be like the physical kinesiology of the econ department (and I only say this because it sounds cool and I’m jealous)), the real barrier to entry in terms of competing with the NFL is getting stadium deals in larger cities and not providing a watchable game of football with the world’s best players (think he may have over-thought that one).
First and Long — Very Long [New York Times]