America’s Cup: UK’s former richest man in Auckland as one of 466 ‘other critical workers’ approved for event

The former richest person in Britain is lounging on his superyacht in Auckland and is among 466 “other critical workers” granted entry into New Zealand for their relationship with America’s Cup teams.

The executives of multinational chemical powerhouse Ineos group continue to glide into Auckland via sea, with America’s Cup Team UK owner Jim Ratcliffe arriving on his $139 million Sherpa superyacht this week.

Last week, Ratcliffe’s right-hand man and director of Ineos Group, Andrew Currie, arrived on his $173m superyacht Hampshire.

Currie walked straight off Hampshire last Saturday into downtown Auckland, having quarantined on the yacht.

Both Ineos Group head honchos have entered New Zealand under a broadening of the eligibility for “other critical workers” related to America’s Cup teams.

A source connected with the Auckland marine industry said when asked if Ratcliffe was in the 74m Sherpa moored at Silo Marina downtown: “Of course he bloody is. Why else would you have carpet, seats and custom-made shoes and shoe storage boxes at the gangways? For the crew?”

Ineos Team UK crew were also seen this week boarding Sherpa.

Ratcliffe is currently the fifth richest person in Britain with a net worth of $26 billion. Currie is worth $8b.

It is unclear what now constitutes “other critical worker” in Immigration New Zealand’s eyes, but it does extend to executives associated with the America’s Cup team owners and sponsors.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) can confirm that border exception requests for 466 individuals relating to America’s Cup teams have been approved via the ‘other critical worker’ process for a variety of roles, including some executives,” an Immigration NZ spokesperson said.

“A minor change was made to immigration instructions to clarify that ‘For the absence of doubt, co-owners of America’s Cup syndicates may be considered other critical workers under H5.30.5(a)(ii)’.

“They are assessed against the same criteria as set out in immigration instructions for ‘other critical worker’.”

On top of this, Immigration has granted an undisclosed number of visas for “peripheral workers associated with the America’s Cup that are not part of the teams taking part in the event”, a spokesperson said.

The success of the various visa applications also depends on their connections to international yacht squadrons under which the three international America’s Cup syndicates operate, such as the British Royal Yacht Squadron and the New York Yacht Club.

In particular, a letter of commendation from those yacht squadrons is understood to be part of the process for some “other critical worker” applications.

Auckland-based legal firm Queen City Law has represented several international clients applying for border exemptions to attend the America’s Cup event.

“For those who apply to enter NZ for the America’s Cup, one would expect evidence confirming their time-critical role from their respective yacht clubs or syndicates,” said Queen City Law principal Marcus Beveridge.

“Ultimately it is INZ that must assess and determine if the person meets the criteria under the ‘other critical worker’ exception policy.”

The range of roles which the America’s Cup syndicates are applying for “other critical worker” is a source of speculation.

A spokesperson from Italian team Luna Rossa confirmed two hospitality managers and other chefs for the team were refused essential services border exemptions.

They said the managers and chefs “were meant to run the hospitality lounge destined for all the event sponsors, which benefits the entire event, and not only Prada”.

It was confirmed last week that the owner of the Luna Rossa team and chief executive of Italian fashion house Prada, Patrizio Bertelli – who is worth $5b – would not attend the Prada or America’s Cup due to the Covid-19 situation in Italy.

“Mr Bertelli’s decision only stems from the fact that in the present circumstances he feels that his place is next to the workers and managers of his company, and that this is his duty,” the Prada spokesperson said.

Last week, the Weekend Herald reported part-owner of the American Magic team Doug DeVos – whose net worth is $7b – completed 14 days managed isolation at Hamilton’s Ibis Hotel with his family on January 11.

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 expected 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 bring more than $400m to 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 carry.

“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.

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