May 30 (Bloomberg) -- WR Hambrecht & Co. Chairman Bill Hambrecht plans to form a professional football league in North American cities where there are no National Football League teams.
The United Football League would require a $30 million investment for each of eight initial franchises, and would sell shares in its teams that would be traded publicly, league spokesman Brian Fisher said. He declined to comment on other financial details.
The 32-team NFL, which generates the highest television ratings of any U.S. sport, has crushed competitors before. Since agreeing to merge with the American Football League in 1966, three other challengers have folded: The World Football League played a full season in 1974 before shutting down the next year; the United States Football League lasted from 1983 to 1986; and the XFL closed in 2001 after one season.
``In can be very costly to penetrate this space,'' said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute.
Carter said franchise owners might have to accept several years of losses before the league established itself.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment. The league had revenue of about $6 billion last year, $3.73 billion from television alone. Mario Williams, the first pick in the league's 2006 draft, signed a six-year, $54 million contract that guaranteed him $26.5 million -- almost enough to buy a team in the new league. The rookie minimum salary last season was $275,000.
Hambrecht, 71, who started his securities company in 1998, is founding the league with Tim Armstrong, vice president of advertising sales for Google Inc., and has hired Bill Daugherty, founder of Interactive Search Holdings and a former National Basketball Association vice president, Fisher said.
Hambrecht helped persuade Google to use an Internet-based auction for its initial stock sale in 2004, rather than relying on banks to find buyers.
The league, which hasn't decided where to locate teams, would begin play in August 2008 using rules similar to those in college and professional football. The first owner of a franchise is Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, Fisher said. The league would not compete with the NFL for top players, rather try to draw borderline players.
Brad Blank, the Boston-based agent whose clients include New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi and Tennessee Titans receiver David Givens, said he would advise clients to consider a new league if the salaries were high enough to justify the physical risks of playing football.
``These days, I don't suggest someone goes out and does that for $25,000,'' he said.
The formation of the new league was first reported on the New York Times' Web site this morning.