Footing the bill for the America's Cup still an issue 

On the America’s Cup to-do list for the next two years: Make plans and review the heck out of them. Demolish some buildings, build others. Design and erect yachts, then race them. Attract hundreds of thousands of people and then entertain them. And what else?

Oh yeah — pay for it all.

Two entities — the America’s Cup Organizing Committee and the America’s Cup Event Authority — are tasked with raising a total of $300 million.

Six weeks after San Francisco was chosen to host the 2013 race, neither has yet raised a dime — mostly because they have been trying to hammer out who is responsible for raising what — a question that, until Friday, elicited different answers from each agency at this point.

On Friday, the leaders of both entities sent in a statement saying they consider “the entire 300M a shared responsibility” and that ever since The City won its bid to host the event “we have worked jointly to raise this money and are aligned in our fundraising efforts.”

But just the day before, Mark Buell, the chairman of the ACOC, a nonprofit volunteer board made up of mostly local business and government leaders, said his organization needs to raise about 10 percent of the $300 million total. That $32 million raised by ACOC will cover the city of San Francisco’s costs, which will come in the form of police security, transportation and environmental review. The rest would mostly be left up to the for-profit Event Authority, mostly through sponsorship contracts and TV rights.

At the time, Craig Thompson, CEO of the Event Authority, contradicted Buell and said the ACOC is contractually obligated to raise all $300 million, and the Event Authority is simply helping them.

“If you look at the contract, San Francisco’s Organizing Committee has an obligation to deliver $270 million to the event, plus the $32 million to offset city costs. .... We’re the ones who get big companies to understand why they should put their money into this — it’s a good investment for them,” Thompson said.

But in an e-mail the following day, Thompson changed his tune: “Since San Francisco won the right to be the host city for the 34th America’s Cup, we have worked jointly to raise this money, and are aligned in our fundraising efforts.”

Asked how confident he is that the ACOC will be able to raise the money for the event, Buell laughed.

“I don’t sleep at night, thanks for asking,” he joked. “Really, I do wake up at 2 in the morning, trying to figure out if we can really do it.”

The first sign that the America’s Cup is coming to town could be apparent as soon as next month, when the massive trimaran that won the last Cup is displayed on The City’s waterfront.

The massive racing yacht is currently being shipped from Spain to San Francisco. Its mast is so tall that it can’t fit under the Golden Gate Bridge, so it has been taken off the ship and will be reassembled once it arrives.

Last week, Mayor Ed Lee said it’s yet to be determined where the yacht will be displayed, but he said it is expected to play a part in the fundraising drive for the event.

Sponsorship will bring in the bucks

Those who can afford to cough up millions of dollars for America’s Cup sponsorship will be able to watch the event at close range: from the boat itself.

The America’s Cup Event Authority, a for-profit entity billionaire boat racer Larry Ellison created to put on the event, has set up three tiers of sponsorship: a global partner, a global sponsor and a national sponsor. Each tier will accommodate just six sponsors, and will guarantee different levels of advertising and branding.

Event Authority CEO Craig Thompson wouldn’t say how much the tiers cost, but said that an independent media valuation firm pegged the value of the top sponsorship at $74 million — but the authority will discount that cost significantly.

Companies that fork over for that highest tier will have their names branded on the buoys around which the yachts will turn. They also secure TV sponsorship, room at the VIP sponsorship tent — and one lucky person will be strapped onto the boat during the race, he said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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Katie Worth

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Saturday, Dec 10, 2016

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