January 11, 2011

The Rich Get Richer


OK, I promise this will be my last snarky post about Larry Ellison.

Well, for a while, anyway.

I'm usually a pretty mild-mannered blogger, in search of the sweeter lessons of life to be learned from sailing. I try to hold my snippier side in check, unless I'm egged on by a certain Rhode Island Laser sailor (you know how they can be sometimes).

So why am I so riled up by Larry Ellison when I should be ecstatic that the America's Cup is coming to San Francisco? Am I the only one who feels this way?

I guess his claim of bringing the Cup to SF just because 'it's the right thing to do for the sport of sailing' is so far from believable that others are starting to wince, too.

Others like sailing's normally sober and upbeat voice of reason - Scuttlebutt.

Scuttlebutt last week linked to an investigative piece by the SF Examiner that revealed details of Larry's final deal with the city to hold America's Cup 34 there. The Examiner, being a litigation-fearing newspaper, kept their headline safe, restrained, and business-like:

America's Cup deal was sweetened to bring race to San Francisco


How sweet.

Scuttlebutt, somewhat uncharacteristically, edged toward snarkiness in their own headline:

How The Rich Get Richer

I, of course, am neither sober, restrained, nor fearful of litigation (sometimes, writing a low-profile blog has its advantages). Having spent some time in New Jersey, I would probably write a headline that spoke more to the bargaining tactics of team Oracle - something like:

An Offer They Couldn't Refuse

The details of the deal highlight Larry's true zeal to bring the Cup to the magnificent natural amphitheater and  iconic waterfront of San Francisco. Apparently, he loves that iconic waterfront so much that he already has plans to build iconic condominiums there.

And here is why Larry has become so successful. while I languish in relative obscurity.

In my first posts on this deal, about three months ago, I thought that Larry could cash in his long-term leases by charging people to park cars along our iconic waterfront. What was I thinking?

I knew that he would be smart enough to figure out something more profitable than that. Years of scrambling to the top of the heap in Silicon Valley's cutthroat software industry have taught him to think outside the box. It takes a true entrepreneurial genius to hit on the idea of building condos there!

You see, building waterfront condos with literally million-dollar views of the Bay Bridge not only lines Larry pockets, but it also gives back to sailing by providing space on the water for all sorts of community sailing programs.

No wait, I guess it doesn't do that.

I must have been dreaming that part. I must have just assumed that any sailor making a bundle from this deal would have included some sailing facility, especially considering how that sheltered part of the bay would be perfect for a sail training site. But I read the Examiner article three times and there's no mention of that at all.

So what exactly are the changes that, uh, 'sweeten' Larry's deal?

Well, you can read the details here. And as you do, maybe, with each one, the hairs will start rising on the back of your neck as mine did.  But the one that really made my day, the one that finally proved to me that Larry is a sailor at heart just like you and me, is the one where the city wanted to retain just a small percentage of the sales that Larry would realize on those million-dollar condos. Just a few crumbs for the city from what is almost guaranteed to be a very juicy pie.

No way, Larry said. If you want any percentage of my condo profits at all, I'm taking the whole show on the road and heading for Rhode Island.

You can see what a soft spot he has in his heart for the sport of sailing and for our iconic waterfront.

The third richest man in America just got a little richer, while sailors and city fathers in both San Francisco and Rhode Island may be feeling more than a little used.

And that can make even the mildest-mannered blogger a little snarky.



  1. That's just complete *******!!!

    In protest I'd switch my database provider away from Oracle, but I've already done that.

    Oh well, at least there still is a local newspaper to highlight these sorts of issues.

  2. How would you like your eggs today?

  3. All of this for a little old sailboat race? Did you ever see how they race at Spruce Run?

  4. Baydog, I used to ride my bike right past Spruce Run, but long before I became interested in sailing.

    I think stories like this tend to show that big-time sailboat racing (like any other sport) isn't much like the low-key club-level racing that most of us know. Once big money is involved, it's a whole other game. Most of us never see that side of things until one of the players is a public entity whose laundry is sometimes subject to public scrutiny.

    JP, you're right, it IS just complete *******!!!

    Why don't we read more about this in those slick sailing magazines? Could they be a bit intimidated by the third richest man in America? And by all of those advertisers who will be working up ad campaigns focused on the Cup? Do the magazines fear ticking off industry insiders whom they rely upon for leads and access to important people and events in the sport?

    Why is it left to newspapers and bloggers to point out that the emperor may not be properly dressed?

    I don't want to glorify newspapers here. This was a local rag doing a fairly routine piece on an obvious topic. But I do feel this is the kind of work it's much harder for bloggers to do than a team of newspaper reporters. Access to prominent people in government, industry, and sports is much easier for writers who have the clout of an established publication behind them.

    Tillerman, over easy, please.

  5. I was about to post a ditty about the uber rich on DoryMan and I'm happy you beat me to it because I am trying to be less cynical in my old age.
    The new rich are more arrogant and much richer than ever, in memory.

    What makes a person rich? The comparison to those who are poorer.

    What if a guy like Larry gave a party and no one came? All we (poor) folk have left is the power of the boycott.

    word verification? tistoph.

  6. Who eats tomatoes with eggs?

    The AC unfortunately is no longer interesting to me. We've got great competitive racing right down on Barnegat Bay. I have two great reasons to visit San Francisco and Newport though, and neither of them have A nor C in their initials.

  7. I hope you don't stay tistoff for too long, Michael.

    Anger can be self-defeating.

    I did this post more as an educational exercise than to rally the troops. I think it helps if we better understand people's true motives in what they are about.

    And I think Baydog could be right, too, but not about the eggs.

    Maybe our best response would be a giant collective yawn for the AC and for all of the hype behind it.

  8. I like eggs with tomatoes. I can never decide which to have, so I have both. Decisions are so hard.

  9. Yup, this is the sort of say-it-ain't-so story that the media should be investigating, rather than what Britney did today.

    But we bloggers maybe lesser in resources we are greater in numbers so maybe that balances things a bit.

    Power to the Blogger!!

    (a free to use service paid for by the largest web advertising agency to gather user information into secret server farms outside democratic control)

  10. Yeah. Try writing a snarky post about Larry Page and see how long it is before your whole blog mysteriously disappears and men with white coats are knocking on your door.

  11. Anonymous, I tried googling to find out who this Mr. Page is and all I found were pictures of an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. Why is that?

  12. Eggs without bacon? Oh wait a second. That's right, Larry got the bacon.

    How the hell did we come out of this without a community sailing program?

  13. Baydog - those are actually the SF City Council members that you picture.

    They may, in fact, be related to lemmings

  14. I guess the community sailing program wasn't iconic enough, Joe.

  15. Will you San Franciscans stop whining please? You wanted the America's Cup. Well now you got it. So lie back and enjoy it.

  16. The whole thing reminds me of our Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. What's that, Mr. Ratner? You want to build a basketball arena? Sure thing, here's an unused rail yard. Oh, you need more? Here, we'll eminent-domain an entire neighborhood for you.

  17. Or the subsidies by taxpayers and land grabs in Arlington for George W Bush and his partners in the Texas Rangers. Hey, didn't George deserve a 25-fold return on his investment?

  18. Thanks for the link to that article, Tillerman, which used a few phrases that were in my post:

    - an offer they couldn't refuse

    - lining their pockets

    I guess I could have used 'land grab', too.

    But you and Bonnie must be confused. You're talking about two political deals involving the misappropriation of public money for private gain.

    What could politics have to do with the America's Cup?

  19. "giant collective yawn for the AC and for all of the hype behind it."


    The local business eg: sailing schools, are scrambling (get it? - eggs scrambing) to see how they can get some of those trickle pennies spilled from Larry the King his bounty

  20. Angelo Bruno1/12/11, 5:50 PM

    Hey, O Docker - After reading your stuff, I'm thinkin that this America's Cup rackit could be a good business for the family.

    I'm gonna have a chat with a few of the fellas on the waterfront.

    For starters, maybe Larry wants to think again bout that community sailing program. Sounds like an offer he can't refuse, don't it?

    Then there's all those condos. We like construction.

    I'm getting accited here. I got a boat we could race to, with a nice family name: Our Thing

  21. T'd off doesn't begin to describe it. While I'm having trouble making my house payments I hope that fixed-winged techno-barge sinks. And when it does, hopefully it's insurance has lapsed due to (some unknown reason).
    Or maybe the bulkhead of that gimme property is not structurally sound?...
    Cynicism gives way to subversion.

    word verification? polit(ical?)

  22. “The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.”
    ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

  23. “They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?”

    - Princess Diana

  24. Maybe that's why I'm not being more sympathetic here.

    I can't even begin to imagine just how miserable Larry must be.

  25. "In the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."

    -Barack Obama 12 Jan 2011.