As the owners of a Glen Allen country club are considering selling the property, some of its members are fighting for a seat at the buyers’ table.
Bids for the potential sale of The Dominion Club, a golf course and country club built by developer HHHunt as the centerpiece of its Wyndham community, were being accepted by Hunt through Aug. 15.
That bid process was prompted by an offer made recently by a small group of Dominion Club members who want to buy the property for an undisclosed price and make it a member-owned facility.
“We’ve asked Hunt to give us an exclusive opportunity to go to the membership and get a deal done,” said Steve Richter, a Dominion Club member and Wyndham resident who is leading a so-called acquisition committee made of 10 club members trying to organize a purchase.
The group’s efforts include making an offer to HHHunt and its related Dominion Club entities and to garner support and equity from as many club members as possible.
They want to buy the club, its land and all its facilities, including the golf course, tennis center, swimming pools and its large clubhouse. They’ll need members to put up equity in order for the group to get bank financing.
“I think there’s a lot of support for it if the pricing is right,” Richter said.
But HHHunt’s announcement soon after that it would accept bids from third-party buyers has made it more difficult for the member group to get momentum behind its offer.
“We have a letter of intent, but it has really no teeth,” Richter said. “We don’t have (the full) membership’s consent to do it. We need confirmation from members that they’re in for the long term.”
Richter said the member group hopes HHHunt will consider allowing more time for them to formalize their efforts and their financial backing. He argues that it’s in the best interest of the club long-term. Richter also said that in 1992 when the club was built, HHHunt promised to eventually transition the property to member ownership.
In a letter sent to Dominion Club members in July, HHHunt President Daniel Schmitt said that the bid process was spurred by the member group’s proposal.
“Our original goal was for the club to ultimately become member owned. We have explored this option before, but the timing was not ideal,” Schmitt said in the letter, dated July 14. “Now, given the inquiry by this member group, we feel this option should be fully explored and evaluated.”
Schmitt said opening it up to outside bidders helps the owners better gauge the price Hunt might fetch for the club.
“We feel the best way to determine the fair market price for the club and club facilities is to obtain proposals from multiple third parties,” his letter stated.
Schmitt did not return calls and an email last week seeking comment.
The potential sale comes about two years after The Dominion Club emerged from a prolonged Chapter 11 bankruptcy and legal debate over whether HHHunt should have to pay back millions of dollars in refundable initiation deposits paid over the years by Dominion Club members.
HHHunt emerged the relative victor of that process, forced only to pay a fraction of what would have been a looming pot of $11 million in deposit refunds.
Some members joined the club by paying initiation deposits of $10,000 to $24,000, and those deposits were marketed as fully refundable. Richter said he paid a deposit of around $20,000.
As part of the judge-approved reorganization, Hunt agreed to pay members and creditors a percentage of the future sales price of the club, depending on the level of net proceeds.
While Hunt considers any offers it may have received by last week’s deadline, it’s still up in the air as to what price the club might draw in a sale process.
Richter said the member group had an independent valuation done to determine a fair market price for the group’s bid. Richter would not say what that price was.
Mike Hatch, who owns Birkdale Golf Club and Brandermill Golf Club in Chesterfield County, said he thought it could garner $4.5 million to $5 million.
The property was most recently assessed by the county for tax purposes at $5.15 million.
Other than the member group, Hatch said it’s not likely that any local golf course owners would look to pick up The Dominion Club. He also said that many of the larger national companies that own multiple courses are likely to make a bid.
“None of the big guys are buying right now,” he said. “I don’t think the big guns are going to come in and get it.”
Hatch said the amount of money in the Wyndham community and general improvements in membership sales are working in The Dominion Club’s favor.
But the challenge in running The Dominion Club is upkeep and staffing for its larger-than-average clubhouse.
“It’s a big overhead,” Hatch said. “When you get these bigger clubs with these huge clubhouses, it adds such a high payroll to the running of the place.”