Larry Ellison pays the lowest-ranking sailors on his America's Cup team $300,000 a year, court filings show

Larry ellisonJustin Sullivan / Getty ImagesLarry Ellison celebrates his team’s America’s Cup championship in 2013.

A wrongful termination suit filed by a former sailor on Oracle Team USA is revealing secrets about how billionaire Larry Ellison runs his championship America’s Cup sailing team.

According to court filings shared by the Wall Street Journal, fired Oracle sailor Joe Spooner was being paid $US25,000 a month — or $US300,000 a year — as compensation for his work as a grinder.

There are six grinders on a typical 12-person sailing team, and they tend to be the lowest-paid of the bunch. Sailors responsible for more difficult tasks, like standing at the helm, might be paid even double what a grinder makes, according to the WSJ.

Spooner reportedly asked for his compensation to be raised to $US38,000 a month so that he could relocate from San Francisco to Bermuda, where the next America’s Cup race will be held in 2017.

Team Oracle declined to increase Spooner’s pay as the request was outside of their relocation policy, and Spooner was dismissed from the team in January.

“For these reasons, and in the light of the stated position that you will not otherwise relocate to Bermuda, this letter constitutes prior written notice of termination,” team Oracle general manager Grant Simmer wrote in Spooner’s termination letter, court filings show.

Spooner is seeking $US725,000 in wages over a 2.5-year period. He was part of the team that won America’s Cup in 2013, a campaign that Oracle team executives have said Ellison paid more than $US115 million in total to win.

The boat that was sailed in the 2013 race was seized by federal marshals Monday. Spooner had filed a lien to prevent the boat being shipped to Bermuda.

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