PARIS — The Louis Vuitton Cup is no more.
Vuitton said Friday that it would part ways with the America’s Cup, sailing’s biggest event, after almost a quarter-century of lending its name to the qualifying races that determine which boat will challenge for yachting’s top prize.
This story first appeared in the July 16, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In a statement, Vuitton cited a “more commercial approach” to the America’s Cup, which has exploded in scale in recent years, attracting bigger crowds, more boats — and lots of eager sponsors beyond the luxury crowd.
Vuitton had become an integral part of the event, staging glamorous parties around its signature races and selling special Louis Vuitton Cup watches and accessories in its stores. Earlier this year, Vuitton devoted a special photo exhibition to the races at its gallery atop the Champs-Elysées flagship here.
“Louis Vuitton has decided not to lend its name to the next Challenger selection series,” the company said in a statement, declining to elaborate. “It will follow with interest the future development of the competition, while not excluding the possibility of reviving the Louis Vuitton Cup in another form.”
Since Team Alinghi chief Ernesto Bertarelli first took the America’s Cup title from New Zealand in 2003, the cost of mounting the event has skyrocketed, some sources estimating tenfold.
After Alinghi’s victory this month, speculation has been rife that sponsorship of the event would go to the highest bidder. It is rumored that Rolex could be among the new sponsors.
Until now, the event’s exclusive appeal attracted sponsors such as Prada, Audemars Piguet, Tag Heuer, Hublot and Girard-Perregaux, who printed their names on masts and sails.
But this past May, Bruno Troublé, organizer of the Louis Vuitton Cup, warned that as the event’s popularity grows, less glamorous brands might look to edge in, which could drive luxury labels away. “It’s a risk to display a luxury label alongside soft drinks,” he told WWD at the time.