News overnight that Switzerland has beaten New Zealand off the coast of Spain in pursuit of the America’s Cup is more than just a chaotic melange of transcontinental consonants. It is a reminder, to those Australians of a certain age, of a time when we were in that race too, cheering on the doomed heroics of Sir Frank Packer on Newport Sound in pursuit of the Auld Mug. It was a quest adopted by his son Kerry as Gretel after Gretel fell to the superior cunning and technology of the various strutting representatives of the New York Yacht Club.

We don’t live in a corporate world sympathetic to that sort of amiable indulgence any more. Private equity has no stomach for a multimillion-dollar joust at some obscure piece of aesthetically dubious maritime silverware. The stockholders would blanch, never mind that the yacht in question carried not only the name of the proprietor’s long suffering wife but also the huddled hopes of the nation.

Happier times? These days the Packers don’t race yachts, or even attempt to exert influence over national affairs through media expansionism. These days they just rip you off at roulette. It even makes you nostalgic for Alan Bond.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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