Some of the world’s richest people are descending on New Zealand for the America’s Cup – with billionaires isolating in Hamilton hotels and superyachts quarantining at Auckland wharves.
The Herald understands the UK’s fifth richest person Jim Ratcliffe – who owns Ineos Team UK – is travelling to New Zealand.
The 68-year-old with a net worth of $26 billion owns chemical powerhouse Ineos group and has invested more than $200 million in his Portsmouth-based America’s Cup team since he founded the syndicate in 2018.
The 66m superyacht of his colleague, Ineos director Andrew Currie, is now moored at Auckland’s Queens Wharf in a fenced-off quarantine berth supervised by Ministry of Health officials.
Currie himself is worth $8b.
Meanwhile the part-owner of the American Magic team Doug DeVos – whose net worth is $7b – completed managed isolation at Hamilton’s Ibis Hotel with his family on Monday.
DeVos spent Thursday on Auckland Harbour in America’s Magic race boat skippered by Terry Hutchinson.
The 56-year-old is co-chairman of US multi-level marketing giant Amway, which specialises in health and beauty products.
DeVos, whose primary residence is a Michigan mansion, posted a picture on Instagram of him and his family celebrating New Year’s Eve from the Ibis Hotel.
“This New Year’s looked a little different for us this year, as you can see! We celebrated last night from our managed isolation hotel room in New Zealand, as we await the America’s Cup racing that starts in the middle of January,” DeVos posted.
“We’re also feeling a little deja-vu as we celebrated the new millenium in New Zealand just 20 years ago, while attending the 2000’s America’s Cup. The circumstances are a little different this time around!”
A post shared by Doug DeVos (@doug.devos)
The arrival of Ineos director Andrew Currie’s $173 million yacht, Hampshire, on December 9 in Auckland harbour was also somewhat mysterious as it had turned off it’s AIS tracker beacon weeks earlier.
An online tracking site for ship movements across the globe still has the Hampshire last docked in the French Polynesian Island of Uturoa.
In September last year, the Weekend Herald reported that superyacht crew were among the few arrivals into New Zealand that could bypass managed isolation facilities.
A Ministry of Health exemption is open to superyachts provided they spend at least $50,000 being refitted or repaired in a New Zealand boat yard.
The crew of those superyachts given border exemptions are allowed to count any days at sea as part of their 14 days required quarantine before they step onto New Zealand soil.
This exemption did not extend to billionaire owners of the superyachts, only crew, but Ratcliffe could bypass this because there is an essential service worker exemption for the owners of America’s Cup teams.
Essential service border exemption visas were granted to all the international owners of the three competing America’s Cup teams in the second half of last year – one for each of team Ineos and Prada Luna Rossa, and three for American Magic.
It is not clear if Ratcliffe, or Currie, is on the Hampshire yacht quarantining on Queens Wharf.
But to be moored in that MOH quarantine berth the crew on board must have required further isolation to reach 14 days since departing from their last international port.
A spokesperson for Ineos Team UK said “we do not comment on the movements of our team owners”.
The owner of Italian team Prada Luna Rossa Pirelli, Patrizio Bertelli, will not make the trip to Auckland.
“The Covid situation is still very serious in Italy, and he feels that in such situation his duty and feelings are to stay in the country, in the production and management centres, next to his workers and collaborators,” a team spokesperson said.
However Bertelli was in “constant contact” with the team.
The arrival of super-wealthy tourists of the ilk of the team owners has long been the money-generating mechanism for America’s Cup host cities.
The Government and Auckland Council have invested $250 million in the event, and back in 2017 had anticipated to recoup $600m to $1b in economic benefit to the local economy.
The arrival of hundreds of international superyacht owners to New Zealand had, before Covid-19 border closures, been estimated to spend more than $400m in the local economy.
Although a new business case for the event has never been completed post 2017, NZ Initiative chief economist Eric Crampton is damning of the financial loss the event will now result in.
“All of this points to the risk of approving government funding for big mega projects like this with a cost-benefit ratio so close to one that even minor changes put it below the threshold,” Crampton said.
Ratcliffe is notoriously private about his personal life, but owns several other high-profile sports teams including the Mercedes F1 team and the Ineos Tour de France team – formerly known as Team Sky.
He also owns the Swiss league football team FC Lausanne-Sport, and has been linked to the purchase of English Premier League giant Chelsea in the past.
A post shared by Doug DeVos (@doug.devos)
DeVos is one of three New York Yacht Club based co-owners of the American Magic team and shares none of the reticence of Ratcliffe.
On Friday, he again took to Instagram with pictures of him practising with the American Magic team in Waitemata Harbour.
“I had the privilege of being a guest onboard during Wednesday’s practice races, and if you can’t tell, I sure had fun!” DeVos posted.
“We’ve made it to Auckland, and are excited to cheer on the American Magic as they race in the Prada Challenger Selection Series!”
DeVos is himself a competitive sailor, having won the world’s leading monohull racing circuit the 52 series in 2018.
The DeVos family also own NBA team the Orlando Magic.
DeVos’ sister-in-law, Betsy DeVos, served as the 11th United States secretary of education from 2017 to 2021 under President Donald Trump but resigned on January 8, 2021.
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