The Pemberton Valley Golf and Country Club may be out of receivership sooner than later once the Royal Bank completes its assessment of the course and opens the bidding process.
According to Ted Milner — a long time club member who is facilitating a private bid on behalf of three investors — Royal Bank is in the process of appointing a receiver who would get the paperwork together and manage the sale of the facility. Milner has also heard of at least two other bids to take over operation of the course.
“What’s important is that this land will always be a golf course,” said Milner. “For one thing, it’s on a flood plain so other kinds of development are impossible. There’s also a revert clause on the lease that stipulates that it will revert back to the province if it isn’t used as a golf course amenity for the community.
“If (the partners) win the bid to operate it they expect to make a small but reasonable amount of return on their investment. It will always be a $40 to $50 course, it will never be another Big Sky or Fairmont Chateau or Nicklaus North, which is good for everybody in the corridor.”
Milner expects the sale to come together relatively soon. Without a buyer, the job and cost of preparing the course for winter will fall to the Royal Bank, as well as the cost of holding the debt.
According to Milner, the three partners he is helping to represent in the bid are all graduates of the Western Business School at the University of Western Ontario from the class of 1980. Milner is also a graduate of the school, 10 years earlier, and met the partners through friends.
One of the investors currently lives in Ontario, one lives in Victoria, and another divides his time between Victoria and Barbados.
“They are all pretty good guys who are thinking that if this course were well-managed they might be able to make a small return on it, like you would on a high yield bond, but they are also thinking that they could have some fun,” said Milner.
The Pemberton Valley Golf and Country Club went into receivership in August. The non-profit society that managed the course since it opened was unable to pay off more than $415,000 in accumulated debts, and only one of the club’s 181 members offered to pay a $2,300 share of the debt load.
Milner says the debt was mostly incurred during the construction of a new clubhouse in the late 1990s, and that the priority of any bid will be to renegotiate with the bank and pay off the debt load as quickly as possible.
Whichever bid is successful, Milner hopes that the course will not change its pricing or character.
“We want it to be a place like Nesters, where the locals go,” he said. “We want to become the mainstay for locals, and maybe cut some deals with local hotels to bring more people up here for affordable golf.
“It’s beautiful, with great views of Mount Currie, and the one thing I’ve found since I’ve been a member is that it’s also a friendly place. We would want to keep the same people, and the same friendly atmosphere… and make it a social place, too.
“Whoever takes (the course), I hope they keep it the way it is. From what we’ve seen, if you operate it properly after looking after the debts, you would be able to operate it properly as an affordable course and still get some kind of return on your money where everybody wins.”
Milner does not know how much the partners are bidding on the course. He is not investing any of his own money.