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Captains of Industry Hijack Yacht Race

Stocks in this article: ORCL KO F

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- The 33rd America's Cup concluded with a CEO navigating the winning vessel, one of the world's richest men steering the loser and a decorated skipper in yachting history winning titles with his third different country.

This is boardroom yachting, and the shareholders are divesting.

Oracle BMW's carbon-composite racer took 150,000 hours to build and $20 million to buy.

Within the past decade, a sport historically in the purview of the elite has become almost exclusively the domain of corporations -- with Oracle (ORCL) Chief Executive Larry Ellison spending an estimated $200 million to help his Oracle BMW (BMW) USA-17 trimaran bring home this year's America's Cup. That nears the $280 million organizing budget that Tom Cannon, a professor of sports business at Liverpool University, estimated was spent for the entire 2007 America's Cup when he studied its impact for Allianz (AZ). At that time, the America's Cup brought in roughly $8 billion in revenue, which was more than that year's Super Bowl and World Series combined and third only to the Olympics ($13 billion) and FIFA World Cup ($10.5 billion).

Ordinarily, this would be a great opportunity for Ellison, Oracle, BMW and race suppliers like Coca-Cola (KO) and Ford (F) to bask in the spotlight, but an intense, high-stakes competition made this all but impossible. Ellison's seafaring rival -- Ernesto Bertarelli, a Swiss-Italian pharmaceutical heir worth about $8.2 billion -- spent nearly as much building his Alinghi 5 catamaran and fighting Ellison in court over who the challenger should be, where and when the races should be held, how the boats should be constructed and even what the rules of the match should be. This delayed the race by nearly a year, prompting longtime sponsor Louis Vuitton (LVMH) to ditch its qualifying races for a "Pacific Series" in New Zealand featuring teams in borrowed boats and almost no television coverage.

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