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America’s Cup Designer Demoted

October 3, 2002

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ America’s Cup-winning yacht designer Doug Peterson has been ``demoted,″ not fired, by his Italian team Prada, billionaire syndicate head Patrizio Bertelli said Friday.

Bertelli said the American-born Peterson had been removed as syndicate design director by unanimous agreement of team members because of differences over boat development.

The ``matter is not personal″ Bertelli told a news conference. He said the Prada team, which is defending the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trophy off Auckland, remained strong and united.

``Mr. Peterson was not fired by the team, he was demoted from his position as design director,″ Bertelli said. ``That was a unanimous decision and was something we had been thinking about for quite some time.″

Bertelli said the decision was not performance-related.

``We only lost one race, so it would be far too early in the series to assess performance in this way,″ he said. ``This decision was due to different opinions between the team and Mr. Peterson on the boat’s development.″

On Thursday, a statement was released saying Peterson was no longer Prada design director and ``no longer an operative member of the team″.

Bertelli, business head of the Prada fashion empire, said Peterson, 57, would be welcome at the team base and could follow challenger racing on a team hospitality boat. Bertelli said his relationship with Peterson was ``normal″ and he would still expect to dine with him.

Peterson has not been available for comment.

The decision to remove Peterson, whose designs won the America’s Cup for the United States in 1992 and New Zealand in 1995, wasn’t related to Prada’s opening loss to the San Francisco team Oracle in the first race of its 2002-03 Cup campaign Tuesday.

The Prada statement recognized Bertelli’s reputation for autocratic leadership and impulsive decision making, but the Italian syndicate head said the decision was not his alone.

``I represent the whole team,″ he said. ``There was not a clash (with Peterson). It was a disagreement on how to develop the boat and that is how we came to this decision.″

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