Forest Creek Under New Ownership
The exclusive Southern Pines golf course community of Forest Creek is now in the hands of a new ownership group.
The deal was done over the weekend with deeds and transfer documents filed Monday with the Moore County Register of Deeds.
A group of members organized as “Forest Creek Investors LLC” (FCI) put up money to pay down bank loans and settle things with developer Barton Tuck and the previous owner of record, Forest Creek Holding Co. LLC (FCH), to put the club in the hands of its members. The members group is still growing, said Earl Ellis, who serves on its five-member board of directors.
“Terry Brown is staying on as president of the club,” Ellis said in a telephone interview Monday night. “We are happy that Bill Patton will stay as superintendent of the golf course. We are very pleased. This has been well over a year in the process.”
The development had too much debt, he said. Members who chose to get involved and invest took part in an equity offering turning much of that debt into equity. FCI will own the club and the real estate going forward, with these investors paid back as Forest Creek grows and sells real estate.
From its beginnings, the plan was that Forest Creek would eventually become entirely member-owned. Brown and his late brother inherited 1,265 acres of pristine pine forest land just a mile or so from the Moore County Airport.
Tuck proposed building a high-end private development on that land in the Sandhills, and they marketed it by word-of-mouth. Friends and business connections flocked to Forest Creek, and the members did the selling of its 37 award-winning holes designed by Tom Fazio.
Earlier this year, disagreement over who should manage Forest Creek Golf Club led to an attempted ouster of Tuck, orders to clear his office, changed locks and a lawsuit. In response, Tuck and Forest Creek Holdings LLC sued former partners Terry Brown and his brother and Heidi Hall-Jones (Myers Farm Partnership). At the time, Brown predicted settlement would keep Forest Creek growing.
Members were concerned, and worried about the growing debt. Tuck himself was personally on the hook as guarantor of one $6 million loan with $500,000 in revolving credit. His lawsuit valued Forest Creek Golf Club at $40 million.
“We became a little bit worried, because the debt became bigger than we thought could be salvaged,” Ellis said. “That’s when we kind of got involved.”
Services might have suffered, slightly, but the course remained in extremely good shape thanks to Patton, according to Ellis.
“He has done a phenomenal job keeping the course in perfect condition,” he said. “We are not going to make basically any changes to start with. We are committed to making this one of the top private clubs in the country. Our operating is good. We’ve got 557 members. Sixty percent live out of state. We’ve got 10 or 15 international members. We are committed to making this a really exclusive place. It’s been that way in the past, and we are committed to go with that.”
The membership is very excited about this change, he said; it is something they wanted.
“We took advantage of an opportunity to get this thing done, and kind of start it over,” he said. “We surprised everybody Friday night by announcing the deal had been closed. Everybody cheered, and everybody is just really excited.”
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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