A handbagging from the long-time sponsor of the America's Cup


Louis Vuitton’s sponsorship of the America’s Cup ended yesterday with a handbagging. The news that they are withdrawing from sponsorship of the Challenger trials was accompanied by carefully worded censure of the America’s Cup Management’s plans for the next Cup.

The French luxury goods company has become synonymous with the America’s Cup, which they have sponsored since 1983. But the news that they are dropping out confirms rumours that they are unhappy with the way the event is being run and the escalation in the costs of sponsorship and participation.

The most intriguing element of the announcement is its criticism of the naked commercialism of the Alinghi-led management, and the power struggle that is brewing about how the next event will be run.

‘Louis Vuitton have decided not to sponsor the next Challenger trials but will carefully observe the future evolution of the event,’ they say. ‘The new rules of the America’s Cup imply a more commercial approach and the protocol is already disputed by some teams. In addition, there is a risk of a significant reduction in the number of teams taking part.’

Is the dispute about the protocol really one of the reasons for withdrawing? Rumour suggests the decision was made in principle well before the shenanigans of the last few weeks. If anything, the announcement reads like a veto: Louis Vuitton will watch the event ‘carefully’ and they reserve the right to sponsor another event with a Louis Vuitton Cup.

The announcement drew a wonderfully haughty, huffy response from Michel Hodara, chief operating officer of ACM. “Now, we will simply have to find a partner that shares the same values of the Cup and this sport,” he said dismissively.

As for getting the Louis Vuitton Cup trophy back for the company to use again, that’s out of the question. ACM would not be asking Emirates Team New Zealand to hand it back.

“It can remain theirs for all of eternity,” Hodara said.

The next America’s Cup is already proving to be a first-rate spectator sport.