Dismal River in Bankruptcy, but Owner Positive on Outlook

  • Dismal River Golf Club
    Dismal River Golf Club

Dismal River Golf Club near Mullen, Nebraska has had a dismal financial record since it’s Jack Nicklaus designed course opened in 2006. The latest ownership group, led by Joel Jacobs, acquired the club in 2017 and has significantly improved revenue across the board. But an internal dispute forced Jacobs to file for bankruptcy in January — a legal and financial move that he hopes will be resolved soon. 

"Since 2018, I've had a couple of minority shareholders with their own personal financial issues I've had to deal with,” Jacobs told the Lincoln Journal Star through an email. “In the spring of 2020 I tried to help these individuals out by giving them a redemption agreement to buy back shares of a privately held investment management company and a minority amount of Dismal River shares.”

Through this agreement, Jacobs agreed to pay the minority shareholders $6.5 million by May 2021. He said he had an investor lined up to provide the cash at the time he agreed to the deal. However, he said the partnership with the investor fell through and the distressed minority shareholders “didn't want to work out a solution."

In the bankruptcy filing, he listed both assets and liabilities between $10 million and $50 million.

Dismal River Golf Club is one of Nebraska’s highest rated courses. The 3,000-acre spread in the state’s sand hills has a Tom Doak-designed course in addition to the Nicklaus course. 

Jacobs acquired the course with seven other Omaha businessmen in 2017 from Richard and Chris Johnston, who’d owned it since 2009. The Johnstons reportedly invested $40 million into the club.

Jacobs changed the operating model from exclusively private to a resort course with a private membership and expanded the club’s offerings to include hunting, fishing, shooting, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported that court documents stated the club has seen record membership interest this year and tripled its revenue since Jacobs took over, hitting more than $7 million last year.

Jacobs told the paper that the club had net income of more than $1 million that reservations for May are up 50% compared with last year. 

"Since filing for the reorganization in January, everything is going great at the club and it has been business as usual," Jacobs said, noting that he expects the bankruptcy case to be dismissed soon.


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