Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Billionaire and the Mechanic

How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing's Greatest Race, the America's Cup, Twice

by Julian Guthrie

The incredible story of how Larry Ellison, one of the world’s richest men, and a car mechanic teamed up to win the America’s Cup, the world’s greatest race.

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 432
  • Publication Date April 01, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2136-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 336
  • Publication Date June 04, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2135-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00

About The Book

The America’s Cup, first awarded in 1851, is the oldest trophy in international sports and one of the most hotly contested. In 2000, Larry Ellison, co-founder and billionaire CEO of Oracle Corporation, decided to run for the coveted prize and found an unlikely partner in Norbert Bajurin, a car radiator mechanic who had recently been named Commodore of the blue collar Golden Gate Yacht Club.

Julian Guthrie’s The Billionaire and the Mechanic tells the incredible story of the partnership—and friendship—between Larry and Norbert, their unsuccessful runs for the Cup in 2003 and 2007, and their victory in 2010. With unparalleled access to Ellison and his team, Guthrie takes readers inside the building process of these astonishing boats and the lives of the passionate athletes who race them. She traces the bitter rivalries between Oracle and its competitors, including Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s Team Alinghi, throwing readers into exhilarating races from Australia to Valencia, Spain.

Tags Sailing


‘surely the most comprehensive book ever written about an America’s Cup challenge, The Billionaire and The Mechanic will surely be must reading for any yacht-racing aficionado.” —Frank Deford

“[An] excellent book . . . The story of Mr. Ellison’s decade-long effort to win the Cup and bring it back to the U.S. under Golden Gate’s flag is worth telling, and Julian Guthrie, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, tells it well.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Splendid . . . Guthrie crisply sketches the complex process that was required for Ellison to establish his own position in the top ranks of yachting and organize the winning team in 2010. A thriller of a tale and a worthy scene-setter for this summer’s trophy defense in San Francisco Bay.” —Kirkus Reviews

“For the dad who loves sailing.” —Los Angeles Times

“[A] product of first-rate reporting. . . . A riveting account.” —Sailing Magazine

“A gripping tale of world-class competition and strategic gamesmanship. . . . It will have enduring value as a great story in its own right.” —Sail World

“Entertaining.” —Soundings

“Energetically written . . . sure to spark interest among racing fans.” —Booklist

“Guthrie’s interviews with the reclusive 68-year-old were a feat in themselves (Ellison rarely agrees to them) . . . [but] The Billionaire and the Mechanic is about more than just Ellison. It’s a look at the competitive and high-tech world of the America’s Cup—one in which obsessive boat builders search for ultralightweight carbon-fiber ‘custom blends,’ hire million-dollar athletes to run their teams, and take each other to court over where races can be held.” —Men’s Journal

The Billionaire and the Mechanic opens with a thrilling scene as old as Homer’s Odyssey and as iconic as ones from Conrad, Melville, Hemingway and Sebastian Junger: a man battling a dangerously stormy sea. That the sailor, Larry Ellison, is one of our contemporary captains of industry, the swashbuckling billionaire of the title . . . only heightens the drama. . . . [The Billionaire and the Mechanic] succeeds as a lively primer, history, and up-to-date soap opera, full of local color, leading up to the America’s Cup races in San Francisco Bay.” —Jay Jennings, San Francisco Chronicle

“Julian Guthrie’s riveting book takes readers deep into uncharted realms, from the extremes of the ocean to the sublime connection between two singular men. The Billionaire and The Mechanic is a wondrously detailed story, beautifully told, by a writer who understands both the intricacies of human nature and the immensity of the natural world.” —Susan Casey, author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

“From the opening scene in this book and scene is the appropriate word for its cinematic beginning the reader is swept along on heart-thumping rides on swift, dueling sailboats, past an assemblage of characters worthy of Dreiser, past the shoals of deceit worthy of Dickens, and coming to rest on the formidable character of billionaire Larry Ellison, who has the will-to-win of his best friend, Steve Jobs, and of a mechanic, who made winning possible. Julian Guthrie writes so vividly that the reader is held spellbound, from page one to the end.” —Ken Auletta, author of Googled: The End of the World As We Know It

“Larry and Norbert—beautiful dreamers both, men with faith in their ability to convert them to reality. This book is fascinating; it informs, educates and entertains about the longest continuously contested trophy in all sports. This is a must read for lovers of sport, and particularly for sailors.” —Bob Fisher, author of An Absorbing Interest: The America’s Cup — A History 1851-2003

“If you’re interested in the America’s Cup competition, or in sailboat racing generally, you’ll love this book. Julian Guthrie’s taut and fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the colorful personalities, the risky development of astonishing new boats, and the hair-raising racing tactics of Larry Ellison’s long campaign to win the trophy is necessary background reading.” —Derek Lundy, author of Godforsaken Sea: A True Story of Racing the World’s Most Dangerous Waters

The Billionaire and the Mechanic is pumping with adrenaline and yet full of subtle, surprising details about both sailing and one of the most mysterious, controversial characters on earth. This book is tirelessly reported and Guthrie has a rare writing gift to tie it all together into a work of literary journalism that reads like a thriller.” —Jaimal Yogis, author of The Fear Project

“Larry Ellison’s America’s Cup victory was as improbable as it was inevitable. The same is true of his alliance with radiator repairman Norbert Bajurin. In this absorbing page-turner, Julian Guthrie tells us how they came together to make history.” —G. Bruce Knecht, author of The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race

“The America’s Cup has a long history of unlikely partners teaming up to win the oldest trophy in sports. Examples include, financier JP Morgan and skipper Charlie Barr in 1899 and 1901. Another successful partnership was Charles Paine and Edward Burgess who successfully defended three times (1885, 1886 and 1887). The team of Larry Ellison and Norbert Bajurin continues this theme. The Billionaire and the Mechanic is a compelling story that serves as another example of what can be achieved when dreams are lofty and every detail is completed with precision.” —Gary Jobson, sailing commentator, America’s Cup Hall of Fame

Praise for The Grace of Everyday Saints

“Meticulous reporting and graceful writing.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Inspiring.” —O: The Oprah Magazine

“A dramatic David vs. Goliath account of a church under siege by its own power structure. . . . Guthrie’s exhaustive research and interviews with more than seventy-five parishioners delve below the surface, and allow her to paint a striking portrait of their struggle and strength. . . . Engaging proof that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Sailors and sports fans will love this exhilarating story. . . . Guthrie skillfully sails behind the scenes to give insight into the many facets of what it takes to win this coveted trophy.” —Jewish Journal

“A fascinating story.” —Woodenboat Review

“Gripping.” —Publishers Weekly

“A gem of a book.” —Ken Auletta

“Moving and eloquent.” —James Carroll

“Vivid [and] compassionate.” —T. J. Stiles


An NCIBA Bestseller
A Forbes Best Book of the Year


One month after the venue for the 33rd America’s Cup was decided, fifty men and two enormous cranes came together on the San Diego docks to try to hoist their brand new rigid wing, made of carbon fiber and Kevlar and wrapped in a white aeronautical film skin onto USA-17. The wing, started as an experimental side project, had grown to two-hundred-and-thirty feet. At twenty-three stories, it was too tall to fit under the Golden Gate Bridge, larger than the wingspan of a Boeing 747, about the size of a football field but as fragile as an egg.

Kiwi boatbuilding manager Mark “Tugsy” Turner watched as the crane operators worked in tandem. “This wing is so light it will literally fly away,” he said of the nearly four ton wing. The first morning, which started at 2 a.m. with maneuvering the wing from the tent out onto the dock, it took eight hours to get the wing onto the boat.

Larry, who had been told to get to San Diego to see the wingsail in action, approached Lindberg Field, near the San Diego harbor, piloting his own plane.

Seeing the boat from the air, Larry said to himself, This is madness.