WAPPING (LONDON), GBR - In what is being called the largest ever investment in a British America's Cup team, the UK energy (and more) company INEOS has effectively bought Ben Ainslie Racing from its previous sponsors and backers. According to Reuters, this means, "Ainslie has ended his partnership with Land Rover and other commercial sponsors. He will also no longer have support from private backers. Ainslie told a news conference that his previous commercial partners were disappointed but had been 'incredibly gracious.'"
According to The Telegraph, "Existing sponsors Land Rover and 11th Hour Racing have left with INEOS’ £110m investment contingent on the team making a completely fresh start. New sponsors Belstaff, Limewood and Projekt Grenadier are part of the INEOS stable. The management/ownership structure has also changed with Sir Keith Mills and Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles Dunstone stepping aside."
The deal, was announced by Mr Ainslie (GBR) this (Thursday) morning at the Prospect of Whitby pub in Wapping, one of London’s oldest maritime pubs. According to several news report, INEOS has effectively hired Ainslie’s race team "lock, stock, and barrel" with most of the key players remaining: Ainslie will stay on as team principal, Grant Simmer (AUS) as CEO, Nick Holroyd (NZL) as Chief Designer, Jono Macbeth (NZL) as sailing team manager and Giles Scott (GBR) as tactician.
Perhaps now we know why Mr Scott, the Olympic gold medalist at Rio in the Finn Class, is not racing his Finn at the Olympic Classes regatta in Hyères, FRA this week. Nor, by the way, is Caleb Paine, the American bronze medalist at Rio in the Finn Class. Hmmm....
For more perspective on this stunning turn of events, read Richard Gladwell's take on it in his article just posted on Sail-World.com, including these tidbits....
At his final media conference in Bermuda, after then Land Rover BAR was eliminated in the Semi-Finals by new America's Cup champion Emirates Team New Zealand, Ainslie told the international media that all his funding was already in place for the 36th America's Cup. The switch to a new naming rights sponsor for almost NZD220 million was not anticipated.
As well as taking the naming sponsor rights, INEOS Team GB has taken three second tier sponsor spots - for Projekt Grenadier, its 4x4 vehicle business, its clothing business Belstaff, and accommodation business the Lime Wood Group.
Projekt Grenadier is a program to develop a replacement for the Land Rover Discovery 4x4 which stopped production in UK in June 2016. The offroader was conceived in a London pub, The Grenadier, the first major project for the new INEOS Automotive business. The vehicle will draw on German engineering, and the German spelling Projekt was adopted. The Grenadier is due to roll off production line in 2020 - a year before the 36th America's Cup.
At today's news conference, Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of INEOS and pictured above with Mr Ainslie, said, "INEOS has taken on many serious projects in the past but none more exciting than this. We have a first-class team and will do everything we can to bring this trophy back to Britain where it belongs."
Bob Fisher (GBR), our longtime friend and widely regarded as the dean of the international yachting journalists, attended today's presser. Afterwards he texted your Ed., "£110 million. All in one sponsorship. Jaw-dropping good."
From personal experience, your Ed. can attest that having one main backer instead of many will be a significant shot in the arm for Mr Ainslie & Co. To say nothing of the cash infusion, top-level decision-making is streamlined, distractions reduced, and operating efficiencies increased.
Overnight, the old Land Rover BAR online presence has disappeared and a new INEOS Team GB online presence has appeared, including this YouTube video. It has the best, simple description yet of the new AC 75 class rule....