Tuesday, June 19, 2007

$28 million offer for Golf Club rejected

Cape course ownership feels deal isn’t credible

Originally posted on June 19, 2007

An offer of $28 million meeting the asking price for The Golf Club fell through because it didn’t appear to be a credible offer, club owner representative Kent Carlson said Monday.

Apogee Ventures LLC of Reno, Nev., made the offer with a request that Florida Gulf Ventures LLC, owner of the course, put up $5 million in three days, while the buyer would have 30 days to put up $500,000, said Carlson, president of Ryan Southeast. Florida Gulf Venture is a division of Ryan.

Carlson said he couldn’t understand why the buyer wanted the owner to put up the money.

“I’ve never bought real estate that way,” Carlson said.

Apogee also wanted to keep the property off the market for 210 days and didn’t seem to have a track record to show it could manage such a deal, Carlson said.

“It wasn’t a credible offer,” Carlson said.

Apogee partner Brian Higley agreed with Carlson that the conditions for closing the deal proved to be the obstacle that blocked the sale.

The Golf Club, with about 175 acres, opened in 1962.

Controversy boiled around the club when it was learned in 2005 that the Lee County School District offered $26 million for the property to acquire it for school sites. Course neighbors organized Save Our Recreation to fight to keep the property as an 18-hole golf course.

According to the owners none of the potential buyers who’ve looked at the course are interested in keeping golf there. The course closed last July because of mounting debt.

Save Our Recreation president Mary Neilson said she spoke Monday with Apogee partner George Alexander about the future of golf on the course.

“He would like to look at the idea of a resort hotel,” Neilson said. A resort with a golf course is something he wanted to talk about with city officials. But Neilson said she didn’t know if Apogee was committed to that plan.

Florida Gulf Venture has asked the city to change its regulations so retail, commercial and multi-family uses can be added to the single-family and recreational uses allowed now.

City staff is reviewing the request, which must be approved by the city council. A decision isn’t expected until late fall, because the state must review such changes before they can be implemented.

The council has made previous statements that they would prefer to see the golf course remain part of the community.

Higley, the Apogee partner, said the company might come back with another offer, but it hasn’t yet decided how to use the property.

“Our feeling as the buyer is we want to do what’s best for the community,” Higley said.

Florida Gulf Venture also is courting the public’s support. The company held an open house last week for the public to comment on potential uses of the property.

“You need the market to support you and you need the community to support you,” Carlson said.