San Francisco writer gives Ellison black mark for Cup theatrics

Larry Ellison on the joystick during Practice Day, 2010 America’s Cup

Just two days after the America's Cup venue announcement in favor of San Francisco, here is how one columnist, CW Nevius, of the San Francisco Chronicle, sees it:

Now that the America's Cup is firmly anchored in San Francisco Bay and everyone is trying on blue blazers and captain's caps, one question remains:

Was this really necessary?

Ellison's team should have spared us the last-minute drama and the tough talk from lead negotiator Stephen Barclay, who said the city was 'hanging on by their fingernails.'

Looking at it now, all it did was create ill will and make city officials wonder if race officials will be this difficult for every minor decision from now until 2013.

It seems pretty clear there was no point in sailing off to Newport, R.I., because honestly, the team didn't give them much time to put together a thorough bid.

'You've got to remember,' said one local race supporter, 'we've been working on this for six or seven months. Newport has been working on it for six or seven hours.'

Going to Newport may have seemed like a good tactical move to get San Francisco to sweeten its deal, but really, it just made Ellison's team look greedy.

Ellison wasn't named Forbes third richest person in the United States for nothing. Certainly he is a savvy businessman, but City Hall explained it five different ways.

The original option, closer to the ballpark, was far more costly for the racing team and city taxpayers. There wasn't money for everything that was needed and public funds could not be used, plus the public viewing options weren't that great either. So the city shifted things north where it would be cheaper for the city and the team, and public viewing sites were vastly superior.

It was that simple.

But Ellison's team acted as if it had been the victim of a bait and switch. Suddenly Newport was the front-runner. And don't forget Italy. At one point, it was reportedly suggested the race might go to the Emirate of Dubai.

'OK,' a city negotiator reportedly replied, 'if we have to compete with an Emir, we're out.'

The reality is, the city put together a good package, which is indicated by the fact that the Board of Supervisors passed it unanimously and with plenty of accolades instead of acrimony.

And now Ellison's team has finally accepted it with only minor tweaks.

Maybe the fuss should have been expected. The team's lead negotiator, Barclay, is known for blowing up a deal at the last second, just to see what might happen. The parties are already invested and when they see the agreement slipping away, they might panic and throw more chips on the table.

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