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Multi-millionaire Australian wine veteran funds America’s Cup bid

A multi-millionaire Australian winemaker who made his fortune by selling off Rosemount Estate at its peak will spearhead his country's bid to win the next America's Cup yacht race.

Bob Oatley’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club, named after the island off the Queensland coast that he also owns, has been accepted as the official Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup, recently retained in dramatic fashion by Oracle Team USA.

Oatley, now in his 80s, was this year listed by Forbes as Australia’s 27th richest person, with a fortune valued at A$945m. He is celebrated as one of the country’s wine pioneers, having founded Rosemount in 1969 and overseen its rise as an international brand.

However, his own rise up the Australian wealth rankings has coincided with Rosemount’s fall from grace over the past decade.

In 2001, Oatley relinquished control of Rosemount to Southcorp via a A$1.5bn merger deal, and then sold his remaining 18.8% stake to Foster’s Group for A$584m in 2005.

Successive owners and management teams have written down billions of dollars of charges on the brand, largely related to weak sales. Its current owner, Treasury Wine Estates, said recently that it must destroy excess wine in the US, a key market for Rosemount.

Oatley is on record as saying he regrets Rosemount’s decline. Since 2006, he has run Robert Oatley Vineyards with his son, Sandy.

These days, though, he is just as much into sailing. His Wild Oats super-maxi yachts have won the Admiral’s Cup in Cowes and six out of the last eight Sydney to Hobart races.

(Editing by Chris Mercer)

Written by Richard Woodard

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