Business Irish

Friday 26 May 2017

Irish property high-rollers may lose out in Sawgrass bankruptcy

Joe Brennan

DOZENS of Irish high-rollers behind the $220m (€162m) purchase of the Marriott Hotel on the world-famous Sawgrass golf course in Florida four years' ago face massive uncertainty on their investment as the resort filed last night for bankruptcy protection.

RQB, led by financier Niall McFadden and property developer Paddy Kelly, assembled up to 40 unnamed investors in 2006 to acquire the hotel with connections to the Professional Golfers' Association (GPA) tour.

It is understood that Mr Kelly no longer has any involvement in the project.

The golf club was also where US golfer Tiger Woods recently apologised for his marital infidelities, in what has been dubbed the 'Sawgrass Redemption'.

The resort does not own Sawgrass, but controls the booking for about 85pc of starting times there.

Most people who play on the course stay at the hotel, which has more than 500 rooms. There were also plans afoot for a $900m leisure and residential development on the 65-acre resort.

An annual junket to the resort had become a fixture on the calendar in recent years for well-heeled stockbrokers and fund managers, where they played on the course of golf's 'fifth major' competition, the Player's Championship.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs, which is owed about $193m, informed the debtors it wanted to foreclose on the resort from last September after six months of talks over restructuring the loan.

Subsequent efforts aimed at resolving the problem -- including efforts to raise $40m of capital -- also hit a number of hurdles.

Plush resorts across the US have been hit hard by the economic downturn, as big corporations cut back on outings and client days.

The course is known for its iconic 17th hole. Architect Peter Dye, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, placed the green on an island in a small lake. It has since become a magnet for pro and weekend golfers, who hit some 120,000 balls each year into the surrounding water.

(Additional reporting, Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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