It was the largest equity conversion of a private club in history — six courses and clubhouses for $73.5 million. And despite the fact that there had been lawsuits in prior years, mistrust and a ton of money at stake, all parties to the Desert Mountain conversion were happy with the end result when it closed this past December.
That was a testament, in part, to the attorneys who worked on the case.
“It was a good deal for the members and the owner,” said Jackson Wilson, an attorney with Gordon & Rees who represented the developer. “At the end of the day, everyone was happy.”
Gordon & Rees is one of ten law firms that Golf Inc. officially recommends to golf course owners, developers and private club boards, based on their expertise, experience and recommendations from clients.
Golf Inc. surveyed golf course owners and operators in May 2011 and for recommendations. From an initial list of more than 40 law firms, we then did a peer survey, and our own research to identify the most experienced and respected attorneys in the industry.
The Addison Law Firm was mentioned the most by both peers and past clients, followed by Foley & Lardner. And Randy Addison (pictured), the founding partner at Addison Law firm, was the attorney on the other end of the Desert Mountain conversion.
“We do the legal work for clients, but also help them orchestrate the documents to get the vote across [to members],” Addison said. “We do cost analysis, cost comparisons and present the members with a clear choice.”
Addison and his team worked closely with the members to take over most of the remaining unsold memberships at Desert Mountain and a large piece of land - more than 2,000 acres. Addison said that while this transaction was much larger than most, many of the issues are the same.
“The question is whether the members have the capacity to take over the club,” he said. “It’s no good for anyone for a course to just go to grass.”
That would not have happened with Desert Mountain, which was established in 1986 and sold to Morgan Stanley in 2007. The club had lost some members in 2008 and 2009, but not nearly to the extent that other private clubs experienced. Desert Mountain’s members are some of the wealthiest people in the United States.
But when the stakes are high, the need for golf know how in an attorney is even more imperative.
““It is easy for a real estate lawyer to say they can handle a golf real estate transaction,” said Mike Whitton, a partner with San Diego-based Troutman Sanders. “But in this particular industry there are unique and germane legal issues that attorneys who don’t work in the area might not know — environmental issues, liquor licenses, financing, seasonality issues. You don’t want a lawyer who will have to learn the issues on your nickel. You want someone who talks the language when they walk in the door.”
Golf Inc's Recommended Law Firms
Below is the list of recommended law firms, with the lead golf attorney. While all of the firms represent clients for a myriad of legal issues, we have listed the areas of special notice and concentration:
Addison Law Firm
Membership, acquisition, development
Foley & Lardner LLP
San Diego, Calif.
Acquisition, development, membership plans
San Diego, Calif.
Acquisition, development, financing, operations, membership, litigation
Gordon & Rees
Litigation, real estate and business transactions, membership
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Membership plans, equity conversions
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Bernard (Robin) Baker III
Membership plans, membership issues, acquisitions
Henslee & Huguely
Membership and other legal issues affecting clubs and resorts
Holland & Knight
Operations, acquisition, development, finance, membership plans
Hyatt & Stubblefield
Jo Anne Stubblefield
Development of master-planned communities, membership plans
Lamb & Associates
Stinson, Morrison Hecker
Acquisition, financing, turnovers in master-planned communities
How to nominate an attorney to this list:
Email us and tell us the name of the law firm, city and state, and the kind of case or cases they handled on your behalf. We will add them to our nominee pool and when they have enough recommendations they will be added to this list.
Publisher's Note: In the above list, only advertisers have a link to their website.