"Dear Valued Member," the letter from DuPont Country Club manager Jeff Bradway begins: "Today we are announcing DuPont will initiate a process to explore a potential sale of the DuPont Country Club. Our priority will be securing a bright future for the Club... During this process, the Club will continue to operate as usual...
"We recognize the importance of the Club to its members -- and to the Wilmington community -- and have made maintaining the property as a club a requirement of any sale agreement. We expect the DuPont name will remain... We have not set a timeline." He adds that the "right buyer" will "enhance the club."
Nearby, the former Hercules Country Club, sold around the time owner Hercules Inc. was sold to Ashland Oil, is now a Toll Bros. development. A Wilmington developer has a deal to build at the (historically Jewish) Brandywine Country Club; half of (historically Italian) Cavaliers was also sold for housing development.
In Malvern, Chester County, Concert Golf Partners has agreed to "recapitalize" White Manor Country Club, paying off the club's debt (it was redesigned and renovated by Bobby Weed in 2003 at a cost of $6 million, which higher dues didn't pay down,) and also investing "more than $1 million into immediate capital projects," Golf Inc.'s Jack Crittenden writes here.
UPDATE: Concert's Nanula tells me he's "looking for more (golf clubs) in the area. Clustering can help: members get more than one place to play golf, and we gain some small economies of scale."
Two readers have told me they believe Philmont Country Club in Huntington Valley is making a similar arrangement, with a guarantee to keep the club going at least five years. The club considered a partial sale to Toll Bros. a few years back, as I reported at the time.
"Our sole business is preserving and enhancing country clubs. We make money, like hotel companies and restaurants, by operating more efficiently, attracting new members, and utilizing the club facilities better.
"We save lots of money from our volume purchasing discounts, as compared to a standalone member-owned club, and we pay off all bank loans when we recapitalize the club with equity – so there are no more debt service payments going to the bank.
"Usually, these two simple changes mean that our clubs start out with a $500,000 to $750,000 annual cash flow advantage compared to the member-funded clubs nearby. This allows us to invest in the facilities, and keep on investing." (Members say that when Concert takes over, fees drop. In that case, doesn't cash flow drop too?)