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At last week’s Country Club town hall meeting, the name of prospective buyer Bob Husband came up multiple times. The club claimed he’s still a potential buyer. The landlord called that a lie. So is Husband still interested? He says yes.

Husband called RanchoMurieta.com over the weekend to react to some member posts on the site. He was willing to address other questions too, and he shared some concerns.

Is he still interested in purchasing the club? Still talking with Vince Lepera, club president, and Tom deRegt, one of the leaders of the development company that is the club’s landlord?

“I absolutely am still talking to everyone,” said Husband, a golf industry veteran who lives in Southern California. “I talk to Vince once a week or every 10 days just to kind of see what’s going on. I’ve been keeping up with Tom. I’ve said, ‘If something changes, call me.’ But I’ve still reached out to him, say, every two weeks, three weeks, something like that, just to see what’s going on.”

Bob Husband and Tom deRegt

Bob Husband, left, for 18 months the prospective buyer of the Country Club, says he and Tom deRegt, right, one of the club's landlords, have continued to talk about a deal. DeRegt agrees about that, but they disagree on other issues.

Husband backed out of the sale in July after 18 months of member meetings that raised hopes for a redesigned club with a pool/fitness center, indoor-outdoor spaces and, in general, first-class spiffiness. The deal fell apart because Operating Engineers Local 3, which represents two dozen club landscape workers, said the sale would trigger a multimillion-dollar payment to help offset shortfalls in the workers’ pension fund. 

At last week’s club meeting, after Lepera made his claim about Husband’s continuing interest, Carol Anderson Ward, a longtime area resident and businesswoman, as well as a principal of the development company, responded, “To say that Bob Husband is going to step back in here and buy the club is a complete lie. I don’t think he ever had the money, first of all. I think the Pension Trust Fund (problem) was the last straw (on) the camel’s back.”

Husband agrees that the pension issue ended the deal, but as for the rest of it....

“I had proven to Vince and to the board that I had the money,” he said. “I’m not concerned about that stuff. If she wants to think that, then she can think that. I don’t care. The money is not the issue. The issue is the pension. As I told Vince, I’m willing to buy the club even though ... the financials are worse than they were when I looked at them a year and a half ago. But I’m willing to take that. I’m just not willing to take that and the union. And I don’t see any other way around that.”

While Husband said he doesn't have a horse in this fall's club election, he and Lepera are invested on the same side of the issue that has divided the race – the notion of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Eight candidates say no to Chapter 11, fearing it will hurt property values and saying other approaches need to be tried first. Lepera and two others say yes, claiming it’s the only way to eliminate the pension issue, which is the only way to bring about a club sale, which is the only way to get an infusion of needed cash. 

“It’s not like it’s something that they did willy-nilly,” Husband said of Chapter 11. “This is a very well thought out way to go here. Because we feel, they feel, the attorneys feel, this is the only way you can go. Because if you don’t do that, no one will ever buy the club, because they’ll never be able to put a number around ‘What’s the total liability for the union?’ Would you buy it for $10 million? The answer’s no. Well, it’s only $3.5 (million), or whatever the number is now, but it could be any number going forward.”

DeRegt, one of the development principals, agreed that he has continued to talk with Husband after the collapse of the deal.

“We did talk after the deal died, and he let me know he would be interested if the pension issue could be resolved, but that’s a big ‘if,’” deRegt said in a phone conversation Monday. He said he had gotten an email from Husband a couple of days before as well as three or four weeks before that.

Does he consider Husband a serious potential buyer?

“When we did our due diligence initially, I did some research in the golf industry, and Bob is well thought of,” deRegt said. “He used to have a company; he’s now more of an independent operator. I think he’s looking to build a new company. We were aware, and he let us know, that one of his original equity partners went away when the pension issue surfaced, so we’re not sure of his current business plan and the financing that is in place. So we’d be starting over again with that.”

DeRegt agreed with Husband’s claim that he has talked about purchasing the club’s land from the developers independent of the pension issues with club ownership.

“We’ve said publicly that we feel that the club needs significant capital investment and a potential source of that capital is a buyer,” deRegt said. “And if the right business plan and the right buyer came forward, we would surely listen.”

But deRegt disagreed with a couple of claims Husband made.

Husband said the development group hopes to acquire the club, and he quoted deRegt as saying he would address the pension issue by closing the club “for whatever period of time we had to.” (DeRegt: “No, that’s not true. We haven’t done the research to know what we would do if we were handed the keys.”)

Husband also said the development group is delaying plans for more Retreats homes, which does not help the club’s effort to find new members. 

DeRegt said the first phase of the Retreats is within a few homes of being sold out, then they’ll move to the Retreats East’s 10 lots, between Holes 1 and 9, where they’ll let lot buyers build their own homes. The next phase will be Retreats North, 52 lots between Holes 9 and 18, which will be addressed with a new product that focuses on one-story homes, he said. “We hope to be under construction out there next year,” he said. “So it’s really just more of a phasing and timing issue.”

Finally, Husband wanted to share his responses to reader comments:

  • “The issue of, well, why don’t we get Troon to come in, or someone with deep pockets? I can tell you for a fact, first of all, Troon doesn’t invest in anything, they just manage. They own one golf course in Arizona, but the rest of it they just manage. They come in for a very large fee and manage your club and that’s not a situation that would work (in Rancho Murieta), obviously.”
  • “Some of the comments that are there about getting all of the people (in the community) to pitch in, that’s not going to work. And why would they do that?” 
  • The suggestion to allow community members to come to dinner and play golf once or twice a month means you’re eliminating hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual dues paid by social members.  “You just throw that out the window. Why would anybody join as a social member if you could always go to the clubhouse and eat whenever you wanted and play golf once in a while?”

John Hein's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 353
Post rating: 417

Reality check

I guess some might just want to call this lies as well! It's a pity we've now become political.

John Hein

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