Team New Zealand received a multimillion dollar loan from its main rival, Alinghi syndicate head Ernesto Bertarelli, before agreeing to challenge for sailing's 2007 America's Cup, the New Zealand Herald reported Saturday. \nGrant Dalton, Team New Zealand's general manager, said the loan was interest free and had "no strings attached." \nDalton refused to disclose the amount involved, but said Bertarelli made the loan to ensure the most competitive syndicates challenged for the Cup off Valencia, Spain in three years. \nBertarelli's "motive was to ensure that Team New Zealand competes at Valencia because, in his view, the regatta would lose some of its appeal without us," Dalton was quoted saying. "It would be like holding the [soccer] World Cup without Brazil." \nBertarelli, an Italian-Swiss biotech billionaire who formed the Alinghi syndicate in 2000 and poached then Team New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts, is reportedly a close friend of Dalton. \nAlinghi dismissed Coutts last week, accusing him of violating his employment contract. The record-breaking skipper has expressed an interest in returning to Team New Zealand. \nAlinghi became the first European team to win the Cup in 152 years when it beat Team New Zealand 5-0 in the 31st Cup match in March last year. \nTeam New Zealand was wavering over its participation for 2007 before signing a substantial sponsorship deal with Dubai-based Emirates Airlines in June. The loan from Bertarelli was made just before the sponsorship deal was completed and allowed New Zealand to confirm funding for a challenge. \nDalton said the loan had been made by Bertarelli personally and had not come from Alinghi. \n"It's a no-strings-attached deal which means it's a money deal," Dalton told the Herald. Bertarelli, "has no involvement in any shape or form in Team New Zealand. It's a completely arms-length deal." \nDalton took charge of Team New Zealand last year, saying it would not take part in the 2007 Cup unless it could secure enough funding to be fully competitive. \nIt's participation at Valencia was in serious doubt until the Emirates deal, worth an estimated NZ$35 million (US$22.3 million) was struck. \nThe leading syndicates at the 2003 Cup had budgets of up to US$90 million.
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