Minister defends Team NZ boss' $2m salary

By Brendan Manning

In comparison, Sir Russell Coutts is rumoured to have been paid about US$10m to run Larry Ellison's Oracle campaign. Photo / NZ Herald
In comparison, Sir Russell Coutts is rumoured to have been paid about US$10m to run Larry Ellison's Oracle campaign. Photo / NZ Herald

If Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton wasn't getting paid his $2 million salary, the country would face another Russell Coutts scenario, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

On Saturday it was revealed that Dalton received a salary of $2 million last year. The revelation came days after Dalton said funding for the team could run dry by the end of the month.

Director Sir Stephen Tindall has since confirmed they will make it to at least January

Mr Joyce told Radio New Zealand this morning that while the Government was keen for Team New Zealand to source its own sponsorship in the interim, he was open to future America's Cup campaign backing.

"My understanding is that they are close to having done that."

"We're also still prepared to look at the sponsorship overall and determine how much that would be."

"In terms of the costs of things, including key personnel, including Dalton - the reality is that we all know that these guys are competed for on the world stage and they get paid salaries which are out of the reach or understanding of most New Zealanders."

It "had always been the case" that top-end New Zealand yachtsmen commanded a high salary, Mr Joyce said.

"We can say 'no, we're not interested in sponsoring it', that's an entirely reasonable approach for the country to take, but we do get some real benefits out of it in terms of the marketing benefits for New Zealand on a world stage.

"I'm completely relaxed about whether we do or don't do it. We can't turn around and say we will cap the designers' salaries at X and we'll cap the team captain's salary at Y.

"In that case they'd all do what we all remember Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth did and disappear off into the wild blue yonder - we weren't very happy with them either."

The Government would assess any future sponsorship deals based on what was proposed by the team and whether there were any real benefits for New Zealand, Mr Joyce said.

"In terms of any interim funding, my preference is that we don't put any further interim funding in it and my understanding is that hopefully they'll make an announcement early this week to say that's where they've got themselves to.

"In terms of a future sponsorship, we'll look at that much closer to the time."

Taxpayers provided $5 million late last year to enable the team to retain core members and recruit targeted design and software specialists. It now needs $11 million more to tide it over until after details including venue of the next Cup are known and sponsors are more willing to make decisions on large-sum commitments. Of the required $11 million, the team has said it has $6 million from corporate sponsors. It has asked the Government for the other $5 million.

- APNZ

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