ClubCorp backs out of deal to acquire Concert Golf clubs

  • David Pillsbury, CEO, ClubCorp

ClubCorp has pulled out of the deal to acquire 16 private clubs from Concert Golf Partners.

Details of the proposed deal first emerged in April after Peter Nanula, CEO of Concert Golf Partners, notified members of the clubs that would be acquired. The two companies then entered into a due diligence stage for a deal that could have exceeded $100 million, and been the largest in the golf industry since 2015. 

But one month later, ClubCorp announced that David Pillsbury was the company’s new CEO, and that Mark Burnett, who had shepherded the deal, was leaving the company. 

Nanula said he understood why ClubCorp squashed the deal.

“Pillsbury is a great guy and he has a new strategy,” he said. “No new CEO will do a deal that large in their first two weeks on the job.” 

ClubCorp said it has respect for Concert Golf’s portfolio, but gave no reason for discontinuing the acquisition. It said it would continue to pursue other strategic initiatives, including the acquisition of private clubs. Pillsbury has said he plans to expand the company beyond golf. 

Nanula speculated that the deal would have used up much of the funds the company has for expansion and acquisition, hamstringing the new CEO.

The possible sale had surprised many in the industry because of Concert’s business model. Concert is owned by Nanula and several partners and funded by wealthy individuals who, according to the chairman, “invest for the long term.” Last year, he said he had $150 million to spend with no plans to dispose of any properties.

But, he said ClubCorp presented a unique opportunity and he was willing to consider such a sale. While he is still considering capital transactions, any deal would not be a sale, but an investment into the company.

Nanula said members at Concert’s clubs are relieved that the sale is dead.

“There is a sense of relief,” he said. “Most had accepted the idea of a sale to ClubCorp. But change is disruptive. They invested into Concert Golf Partners and like what we have done and how we operate.”

Pillsbury’s hiring came one year after Eric Affeldt announced his retirement and 10 months after ClubCorp’s acquisition by Apollo Global Management for $2.2 billion. Mark Burnett, ClubCorp president and COO, had been running the company for much of the past year and was the driving force behind the Concert Golf deal. He has left the company.

Pillsbury was co-CEO of American Golf from 2000 to 2003, and Mark Burnett was COO of American Golf from 2000 to 2004. Peter Nanula was previously CEO of Arnold Palmer Golf Management. 

Jim Hinckley, who is now CEO of American Golf and Arnold Palmer Golf Management, was president of ClubCorp until 2002. 

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