The biggest fish - Page 2

The America's Cup would transform San Francisco's waterfront -- but is it a good deal for the city?

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The next world-famous sailing match could be held in San Francisco in 2013
PHOTO BY JEAN-BAPTISTE DANIEL


THE CREW

According to a Forbes calculation from September 2010, Ellison's net worth is $27 billion, making him several times wealthier than the City and County of San Francisco, which has a total annual budget of about $6 billion. Ellison reportedly spent $100 million and a decade pursuing the Cup.

As soon as Ellison expressed interest in bringing the Cup to San Francisco, Newsom began charting a course. Park Merced architect and Newsom campaign contributor Craig Hartman of the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was tapped to reimagine the piers south of the Bay Bridge as the central hub for the event, and soon Hartman's vision for a viewing area beneath a whimsical sail-like canopy was forwarded to the media.

The mayor also issued letters of invitation to form the America's Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC), a group that would be tasked with soliciting corporate funding for the event. ACOC was convened as a nonprofit corporation, and it's a powerhouse of wealthy, politically connected, and influential members.

Hollywood mogul Steve Bing, who's donated millions to the Democratic Party and funded former President Bill Clinton's 2009 trip to North Korea to rescue two imprisoned American journalists, is on the committee. So is Tom Perkins, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, billionaire, and former mega-yacht owner who was once dubbed "the Captain of Capitalism" by 60 Minutes. George Schultz and his wife, Charlotte, are members. Thomas J. Coates, a powerful San Francisco real estate investor who dumped $1 million into a 2008 California ballot initiative to eliminate rent control, also has a seat. Coates resurfaced in the November 2010 election when he poured $200,000 into local anti-progressive ballot measures and the campaigns of economically conservative supervisorial candidates.

Billionaire Warren Hellman, San Francisco socialite Dede Wilsey, and former Newsom press secretary Peter Ragone are also on ACOC. There are representatives from Wells Fargo, AT&T, and United Airlines. One ACOC member directs a real estate firm that generated $2.5 billion in revenue in 2009. Another is Martin Koffel, CEO of URS Corp., an energy industry heavyweight that made $9.2 billion in revenue in 2009. There's Richard Kramlich, a cofounder of a Menlo Park venture capital firm that controls $11 billion in "committed capital." And then there's Mike Latham, CEO of iShares, which traffics in pooled investment funds worth about $509 billion, according to a BusinessWeek article.

There's also an honorary branch of ACOC composed of elected officials including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and others. Their role is to help the Cup interface with various governmental agencies to control air space, secure areas of the bay exclusively for the event, set up international broadcasts, and bring foreign crew members and fancy sailboats into the United States without a hassle from immigration authorities.

ACOC is expected to raise $270 million in corporate sponsorships for the America's Cup. That money will be funneled into the budget for ACEA. It's unclear whether the $150 million ACEA is required to invest in city piers will be derived from ACOC's fund drive.

The city also anticipates that ACOC would raise $32 million to help defray municipal costs. "However," the Budget & Legislative Analyst report cautions, "there is no guarantee that any of the anticipated $32 million in private contributions will be raised."

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