Auckland’s America’s Cup dream isn’t dead yet


When the wealthy businessman trying to fund a cup defense in Auckland – against the wishes of Team NZ – was copied in a controversial email last week, all hell broke loose. Writing for BusinessDesk, Pattrick Smellie provides the background to the junkyard and what Grant Dalton might do next.

If Mark Dunphy has any sense, he won’t say anything for the next few weeks about his attempts to make the 37th America’s Cup in Auckland.

The atomic bomb dropped by Team New Zealand on Wednesday evening is a salutary reminder that its managing director, Grant Dalton, not only does not take prisoners, but is reveling in a moment of public dismemberment.

Such was the contempt of Dunphy’s camp when Dalton posted a damaging email to the New York Yacht Club of Hamish Ross, longtime America’s Cup lawyer and Auckland sailing identity – on which Dunphy was put in copy – that most of the media immediately wrote off any chance of a revival.

If ‘Dalts’ says communication on whether Auckland will host the regatta is over, then his excellent record as a ruthless winner would suggest that is the end of it. Except for one thing: he doesn’t have – yet – another place to go.

Keep in mind that it’s only been a little over a week since Team NZ had to extend their previously unwavering September 17 deadline to announce an international host venue. The Irish government has remained cold on funding for the 2024 regatta off Cork, the Spanish city of Valencia’s bid has collapsed and unchallenged rumors about Jeddah, Saudi Arabia suggest major sailors and sponsors of Team NZ don’t want a bar of it.

Grant Dalton of Team New Zealand at the Welcome Home Parade on July 6, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / Getty Images)

Dalton’s remaining options

So what are Dalton’s options? At first, he can try to relaunch one of the two European candidatures. Irish objections closely resemble New Zealand government sensitivities – committing a sum of money to elite sport based on consultant reports that always seem to assume a pot of gold for the host country and nebulous benefits of visits to very wealthy potential investors. .

Cork could still bounce back.

An Irish offering would almost certainly attract a serious, big-budget audience from the Irish-American and sailing communities of the US East Coast. After all, the New York Yacht Club is the original home of the Cup itself.

As Ireland presents itself as a location for high-tech investment, hosting the America’s Cup would have many of the same benefits touted for Auckland.

Valencia could also return. The three-headed consortium pushing the bid may have failed, but if the venue selection is still months away, a new bid could be replenished. Valencia have hosted the cup twice already, although, as their mayor pointed out, they are still paying off 2007 and 2010 debts.

There may be yet another place we don’t know.

One thing a bettor would bet is that Auckland remains last on Dalton’s list no matter what he says.

Why Dalts avoids Aucks

On the one hand, it has a vision of the Cup as a mobile global event akin to Formula 1 or, more comparably, the SailGP series established by its America’s Cup nemesis Russell Coutts. – the renegade skipper who won two nominations for the Team NZ Cup before becoming a weapon for hire and winning it for the Italian and American teams.

Moreover, Dalton does not appear to have the aptitude or appetite to lead another defense in Auckland if he is to respond to ministries – or any funder really – in the way that the year’s findings last revealed that he should.

While the NZ team rightly insists that investigations into the team’s governance have revealed no wrongdoing, they have found that having Dalton as the general manager of the team The team and company organizing the event was, charitably, suboptimal. The government, Auckland council entities and major private donors have all made it clear that they will no longer support such poorly governed deals.

For his part, Dalton has very little interest in being, in his opinion, shackled by the pusher pen processes when he has a multi-million tiger by the tail and a haircut to win.

Winning streak

So when Dunphy appeared with his local fundraising offer a fortnight after Team NZ turned down the government’s $ 99 million cash and in-kind support program, Team NZ’s attitude was far from welcoming.

First, Dunphy’s interest in helping fund a local defense has been dubbed a “takeover,” which says more about Dalton’s proprietary approach to the cut than Dunphy’s actions. If anyone has taken over the cup, it’s Dalton, who appears to have wrested control of all major decisions from the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron, which is technically its official holder.

With a “legacy payment” of up to $ 3 million proposed to support the cut off, the squadron’s job seems to be little more than asking “how high?” when the NZ team says “jump”.

The team also informed reporters of the existence of a financial ‘wiring diagram’, which could not be shared, showing that Dunphy had planned for nothing less than an investment banker’s tax charge. typical.

When the electrical diagram finally appeared, my reaction was to think: “my tax return is more complicated than that”. It showed nothing more than a structure to do two things: create a governance structure that would funnel money to Team NZ and the event, but not give Dalton the checkbook. And potentially allow tax deductibility for private donations – something Team NZ had offered for nearly two decades before losing its tax donee status in April of last year for reasons that remain unclear.

In short, if Team NZ is now saying that Dunphy’s efforts were made in bad faith, then Team NZ’s initial rejections of those efforts were also in bad faith. While Dalton says the race has to go overseas because the money is not there and Covid-19 makes it inappropriate to seek government funding, the reality is that he is looking for that outcome.

It’s now a problem for the NZ team that Dunphy insists the money is there and the government has offered generous support.

This is all the more the case as the public investment to date in the team and infrastructure on the Auckland waterfront was not fully realized last summer because of the pandemic. By 2024, with the world emerging from Covid, a repeat event in Auckland could see a better return on this investment.

The Auckland government and funding bodies are certainly open to an Auckland re-run. They are fully informed of the events of the past few weeks and simply refuse to engage in the current unseemly brawl between the giant egos involved in Auckland trade and yachting.

The Emirates Team New Zealand crew celebrate their victory over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in Race 10 to win the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland on March 17, 2021 (Photo: GILLES MARTIN-RAGET / AFP via Getty Images)

An innocent afloat

There is no doubt that Dunphy’s missteps played directly into Dalton’s hands.

Dunphy may be wealthy, successful, and as intensely competitive as Dalton, but he has been religiously low-key throughout a career in which he amassed great personal fortune as the founder of Greymouth Petroleum, one of the few remaining players in New Zealand’s oil. and the gas sector.

He has at times been a possum in the spotlight under media scrutiny and has nothing to do with Dalton’s PhD in media disputes. It’s also clear from interviews over the past six weeks that Dunphy has had his arm twisted to get the job done by others, some of them with deep personal agendas when it comes to Dalton.

However, it’s almost laughable to suggest, as Team NZ and some of the overheated international blogs that feast on cup gossip do, that their entire agenda is to get their hands on the secrets of Team NZ’s super-boat, Te Rehutai. , and whip them to competition.

Dunphy may have been a little naive. He can also be quite ruthless in his business dealings. But nothing suggests that he or anyone close to him is a traitor.

However, in creating this tale, Dalton bought himself time and space to search for his missing place.

What destination now?

In the meantime, Dunphy could consider two options.

First, he could choose to go underground and consolidate the monetary offers that he believes exist. It is only when these are attached that it reappears. If the money cannot be tied up, it can quietly withdraw from the fray.

And second, he could look for a successor. The inclusion of Dunphy in Hamish Ross’s NYYC email is a personal goal that will haunt him whether or not Ross was right to include him in this communication. Interest in this level of forensic detail is nil. He was hurt by this revelation.

But there are other wealthy and ambitious New Zealanders who wish to associate their names with this high-profile event which, love it or hate it, has made its way into the New Zealand psyche. .

Some of them may even know how to handle the mercurial aggression of the leaders in the dinosaur mold of Grant Dalton. Some may also have learned a few things about media manipulation.

It will take that kind of combination to relaunch an Auckland bid for the cup. But until a credible international welcoming venue presents itself, it is too early to read the final rites on the Auckland option.

This article originally appeared on BusinessDesk. Their team publishes quality independent news, analysis and commentary on business, economics and politics every day. Find out more.


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