By Ken MacLeod
After seven months of financial stress and uncertainty, there is a measure of relief and optimism at Gaillardia Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City.
The club was purchased last week by Concert Golf Partners of Newport Beach, Calif. Headed by Peter Nanula, the former CEO of Arnold Palmer Group, Concert Golf made Gaillardia the sixth course it has purchased since beginning operations in 2011.
"It was like we were an orphan and now we have a growing family again," said Gaillardia Executive Director and Director of Golf Peter Vitali. "These guys are very skilled, very talented at what they do. They know how to go in and act fast when a club is distressed to get it back on its feet. The membership here is excited. There is no downside, only an upside, to this."
Concert Golf purchased two mortgages on the property and reached an undisclosed settlement with previous owner Herrington, Inc., run by Arkansas private equity and real estate specialist Phil Herrington. Herrington had lost control of Gaillardia after heavy debts mounted up and the course was put in receivership. A group of members were among several groups who had expressed an interest in purchasing Gaillardia, but Concert Golf was the first to pounce, buying the mortgages from both First Liberty Bank and Bank of the Ozarks, which had begun foreclosure proceedings against Herrington.
Nanula said today that Gaillardia was exactly the type of facility his well-capitalized, emerging company was seeking.
"It’s a fabulous venue in a city that is growing and where the economy is booming," Nanula said. "With all the uncertainties that had surrounded the course, people were understandably holding back. With those removed, we think it has great potential and will be a terrific club for years to come."
The new owners have already begun needed repairs to the roof on the 55,000-square foot clubhouse as well as needed updates inside. The course remained in good condition throughout the ordeal, thanks to the work of superintendent Sean Hogan and his staff.
Concert Golf paid cash for the course and eliminated much of the debt that had piled up under Herrington’s watch.
"The biggest thing now is we have resources that we didn’t have, both human and capital," Vitali said. "I anticipate the club is going to see growth in all areas."
Gaillardia has about 475 members including social memberships. The club has a pool, tennis courts, playground, sand volleyball court, indoor workout facilities and a state-of-the-art golf learning and teaching center. It also is a popular venue for weddings, having hosted more than 30 in 2013.
Both Nanula and Vitali stressed that Concert Golf is not looking to micro-manage Gaillardia, but looking to improve the facilities and membership with a long-term investment in mind.
A California company backed by wealthy investors has purchased Gaillardia Golf and Country Club in an all-cash deal that will rid the elite golf club of its heavy debt load.
A courthouse auction to sell off Gaillardia Golf and Country Club scheduled for February was called off this week after Newport Beach, Calif.-based Concert Golf Partners revealed that it had purchased a second mortgage on the property from First Liberty Bank and reached a settlement with Gaillardia’s former owner, the Arkansas-based private equity firm Herrington, Inc.
Concert Golf had already purchased the first mortgage on Gaillardia from Bank of the Ozarks in August.
Peter Nanula, chairman for Concert Golf, declined to disclose the terms of the settlement, but said the company would almost immediately begin reinvesting in Gaillardia by making needed repairs at the clubhouse and updating its furnishings.
Repairing the clubhouse’s leaky roof, which was damaged a few years ago in a hailstorm, was one of Concert Golf’s first priorities, he said.
"We have successfully recapitalized the country club," Nanula said. "It’s always been a fabulous club. It was just wrongly capitalized. The club is now debt free with a long-term, stable future."
A group of Gaillardia members had been expected to bid against Concert Golf at a public auction next month.
Attempts to reach Jeff McDougall, owner of the Oklahoma City-based JMA Energy Co. and one of the Gaillardia members leading the group considering a bid on the property, were unsuccessful on Thursday.
A few professional golf course operating companies also had expressed casual interest in purchasing Gaillardia, said Ford Price, managing partner of Price Edwards & Co. Price has been acting as receiver for Gaillardia since last year, when Bank of the Ozarks and First Liberty Bank moved to begin foreclosure proceedings against former owner Herrington Inc.
There was no need to continue with the auction after Concert Golf bought out both mortgage holders on the property and reached settlement with Herrington, Price said.
"The goal of finding a long-term solution for the club has been accomplished," Price said. "Concert is a well-thought-of owner and operator of these facilities."
Hit the papers back in June, we call on all those type of situations, with some of financial uncertainty, probably the finest club in that whole part of the country.
Courses that had taken on too much depb,
Really more has to do, when is the debt or financial challenges of the club getting in the way of providing a great experience, fantastic members, have some great events, when debt issues start
Those are the kind of things we’ll bring back immediately, debut free, very bright long-term future, any prospective members, have
WE look at these as a long term investement, opportunities to improve the service and experience, long term of making these clubs more valuable over time.
A national membership, more than 75 miles away, people in Tulsa who would love to be affiliated.
Capital improvements, roof, and issue for a while, contractors out there, a bunch of other improvements that have been on hold, golf course is still in fantastic shape.
It’s rare, it’s not completely unique to have a 55,000 foot clubhouse, to have one that fabulous, that’s pretty rare, either super old or using lesser m
Thw whole experience, to the sense of space, rearely see courses set on 230 acres, just an expansive property, got water holes, got links style, it’s elaborate.
I just think it’s a fabulous sort of venue, a lot of companies in Oklahoma that would benefit for having business meeting,s entertaining clients, a lot of families growing in the Gaillardia community.
Those have been selling even
Last several years, as economy has stabilized and improved, is it long term a growing industry, been a sort of steady, very gradual shrinkage, but if in a major metro area like OCK, not an issue,
All the companies that are booming there, people understandably hold back, now with all those uncertainties removed, we think it’s a great place for years to come.