Interview with Sir Keith Mills

Interview with Sir Keith Mills

30 March 2016

One of Britain’s leading businessmen is backing this summer’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series sailing races in Portsmouth to have a huge boost for Hampshire.

 Sir Keith Mills, founder of Air Miles and the Nectar card scheme and a main player in organising the London 2012 Olympic Games, says county businesses will benefit enormously from the four-day event in July starring Britain’s top sailor Sir Ben Ainslie.

 Britain is attempting to win the oldest international trophy in world sport for the first time. It dates back to 1851 when the Royal Yacht Squadron organised the first race around the Isle of Wight watched by Queen Victoria.

 Sir Keith said: “The America’s Cup is an extraordinary event, a massive undertaking on the scale of bringing Formula 1 racing to Hampshire.

 “If we win it next year in Bermuda we will host the next cup – and Portsmouth would be our preferred venue, bringing untold investment into the region.”

 Sir Keith is chairman of Team Origin Events, the event organiser of the 2015 and 2016 Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series. Britain’s entry is Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), led by Sir Ben.

 More than £100 million is being invested in the America’s Cup campaign, including BAR’s base in the city, but the benefit would be considerably bigger.

 Sir Keith, who was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, says major sporting events have a ‘halo’ effect on tourism

 And figures compiled about last summer’s America’s Cup racing show just how much wealth the event brought into the area and boosted tourism.

 This year’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, featuring the best sailors in the world competing on foiling, wing-sailed 45ft catamarans, will be in Portsmouth from July 21-24.

 It is part of an international series of races with the two leading nations going on to compete in the 35th America’s Cup Finals in 2017 in Bermuda.

 Sir Keith said: “The worldwide spotlight will be shining on Portsmouth and Hampshire through comprehensive media coverage of the event – tourism promotion of the area that money just could not buy.”

 Last summer’s event attracted 248,505 spectators over four days with an estimated overall spectator spend of £5.9 million – despite bad weather causing events to be cancelled on one day – and the estimated generation of 175 FTE jobs.

 He added: “We want to establish a regular event in Portsmouth – I hope we will be back in 2018 as cup winners hosting the 2018 event. We are already planning on what we would do if that happened and our venue preference would be Portsmouth.

 “It is a complex procedure, taking into account infrastructure, land acquisition, and transport. The preparation work we are doing now will not be lost, it will simply take on a different, more significant and tangible nature.

 “The America’s Cup is an arena event and we chose Portsmouth because spectators can watch from the shore with the action not far away while still being close to the city. There are not many locations where this is possible.

 “The infrastructure is good and there is a marine heritage going back hundreds of years. Also, Portsmouth needed an economic boost following massive job losses caused by the end of shipbuilding in the city. It is also an area of higher deprivation than many of those in the south east.

 “The government recognises the value of hosting great events, has invested money in the city and we have been working very closely with Portsmouth City Council to deliver them.”

 Sir Keith, a keen sailor himself, said that if Portsmouth were to host the next cup there would be up to 10 countries competing, spending a lot of time and money establishing bases and getting ready – revitalising the area as the Olympics did for East London – as well as promoting international trade..

 “I liken it to the Thames Valley where the Formula 1 teams are based. The number of companies supplying them now runs into the thousands. If we are successful next year we can use that to really boost the Solent region and the marine industry.

 “It would be tremendous for all businesses from catering to security and everything in between. The international opportunities to attract inward investment into Hampshire off the back of the America’s Cup will be enormous.

 “Although I have a great many hats, this is a project I take a real personal interest in – sailing is my sport – and I have enjoyed working closely with Sir Ben Ainslie.

 “After 160 years it is about time we brought the America’s Cup back to where it started.”

 The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series in Portsmouth from July 21-24. The best sailors and the fastest boats. Join the action.


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