No one could accuse Bill Hambrecht of being a foolish man. He’s a Princeton graduate and as savvy an investment banker as you’ll ever meet. He helped take Apple Computers public in the 1980s. He founded investment bank W.R. Hambrecht + Co. in 1998 and pioneered the “OpenIPO” process to make initial public offerings more impartial. He’s been involved in the IPOs of Overstock.com, Morningstar and a little company called Google. Guy knows his stuff, okay? But even the savviest investor wouldn’t know what to make of Hambrecht’s obsession with the United Football League, which he helped start in 2007 and has now sunk $70 million of his own money into. The UFL sounds great on paper—NFL-caliber players and coaches, for an incredibly discounted price—but with the third season about to start, few are buying into it. There is no viable TV deal on the horizon, which means little to no money coming in. Most investors who had already lost that kind of coin would fold up tents, but Hambrecht will spend another $7 million for the 2011 season and the Las Vegas Locomotives, which he owns. The UFL, it would seem, is Hambrecht’s own personal field of dreams, but it’s hard to see this one as anything more than a fever dream.
Wed, Aug 31, 2011 (4 p.m.)