Ellison’s key role in America’s Cup decision
As the fifth richest man in the world, as successful on land as he is on water, Larry Ellison will have a big say as to whether the next America’s Cup in 2017 will be sailed on local waters.
Estimated by Forbes Magazine to be worth $50 billion, with an unbridled passion for sailing, Ellison sits on the five-person America’s Cup committee from the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which will ultimately decide where the granddaddy of sailing contests takes place — in the Pacific or in the Atlantic.
Also on that committee is Russell Coutts, an America’s Cup veteran who is very familiar with Bermuda and its race conditions. He is also a director of the America’s Cup Event Authority and in the next few weeks will continue to evaluate the bids.
It is believed that Coutts will then make a recommendation to his boss, Ellison, who will then decide between San Diego and Bermuda.
Coutts and Ellison hold two of the three Oracle-connected spots on the Cup committee.
In 2013, San Francisco hosted the showdown between Oracle Team USA and New Zealand’s Team Emirates when the American team overcame incredible odds to wrest the Cup, having trailed 8-1 in a best-of-17 series in which they had to win 11 races because of a two-race penalty at the start for rules infringements.
On that occasion, Ellison was not aboard Oracle in any of the races, but, as the owner of Oracle Team USA, Ellison is desperate to retain the trophy, either in San Francisco’s California neighbour, San Diego, or in Bermuda, which has played host to numerous international regattas, including the recent Argo Group Gold Cup.
The 70-year-old is well aware of Bermuda’s sailing history and anything he does not know already will be passed on by Coutts.
Ellison hit the headlines this year when he resigned as CEO of Oracle, the software giant that he built in Silicon Valley. He now holds the position of executive chairman and chief technology officer.
That may indicate he wants to devote more of his time to the next America’s Cup and with a boat that will still carry his company’s name.
With plenty of cash to spare — he’s the third richest American behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — he says that he will leave no stone unturned in his preparation for clinching a third victory.
When asked why he was so desperate to win a second America’s Cup, he said: “It’s funny because I realised after losing twice that my personality wouldn’t allow me to quit while losing. Then after winning the America’s Cup, I discovered my personality doesn’t allow me to quit while winning! I don’t smoke, but I do sail.”
In a previous television interview, he said: “I was passionate about sailing and the idea of sailing, the idyllic independence, travelling with the wind.”
Last year Ellison explained that it was all part of his initiative to revolutionise the sport. “We’ve got to modernise it,” he said. “It can’t be unchanged since 1851. It will not only keep it exciting but keep it relevant to a younger generation.”
For next year’s World Series races in Bermuda, the competition will be decided in high-performance, 45-foot catamarans and that will help determine the standings for the America’s Cup qualifiers in 2017, which will be sailed in 62-foot catamarans.
Some international media have predicted Ellison’s final decision will be announced on December 1 so that challengers can finalise sponsorship deals.
That Bermuda, reportedly, is offering tax-free competition for the boat owners and other financial incentives might also interest the software mogul, despite his wealth.
After the local township in Silicon Valley assessed his property at a value of $173 million and handed Ellison the tax bill, he challenged the value and won, receiving a 60 per cent tax cut on his “$70 million” property.
A former owner of the world’s sixth largest yacht, the $200 million Rising Sun, he sold it to music guru David Geffen in 2010.
He also has a taste for highly expensive cars and planes. His collection includes a McLaren F1 (only six of these cars are in the US), an Audi R8 and a fighter jet.
His mansion is modelled on a 16th century Japanese estate. It spans 45 acres and features a main house, a two-bedroom guest house, three cottages, a barn converted to a gym and a man-made lake and two waterfalls.
Ellison enrolled on a sailing course at the University of California shortly after he moved to the state in 1966 at the age of 22. According to the magazine About Sports, at 25, he bought a 34-foot racing sloop, a single mast sailboat.
He had to sell the boat after a few years because he became too busy building his company Software Development Laboratories, founded in 1977. SDL eventually adopted the name of its flagship Oracle product in 1982. Oracle went public in 1986, making Ellison $93 million from his 39 per cent stake in the company.