Trustees awaiting viable bid on country club

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

“No viable bids,” said a representative of the group that holdsthe Brookhaven Country Club in trust and is charged with sellingthe property that once belonged to former WorldCom CEO BernieEbbers.

“We have not received a bid on the level that is necessary tostart the bidding process,” said Development Specialists Inc.Senior Consultant John Wheeler on the country club property.

Only two pieces of property remain to be sold in Lincoln County,Wheeler said. They include the country cub and a vacant lot in thecity.

The country club has remained operational since being placed inthe trust. It currently has approximately 330 members, said RonnyRoss, the club’s golf professional.

The club, which is open seven days a week, currently has an18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, a pool and clubhouse.

Trustees said in early June they had hoped to raise $1 to $1.2million on the property. Wheeler said last week he had spoken withseveral individuals who were interested in the property, but no onehad made a viable offer.

“The money never materialized when I asked for a solid offer,”Wheeler said.

Wheeler had hoped that a local group of investors would comeforward and make an offer for the club.

“It’s obvious no one in the area is that interested,” Wheelersaid.

The company will continue to market the property outside of thearea with hopes of finding a buyer, he said.

In response to some of the rumors he has heard in his Chicagooffice, Wheeler said there are no plans to raise rates or close thedoors to the club.

“We haven’t talked about closing,” he said. “And I don’t haveany intentions of closing it.”

Wheeler maintained that membership has remained steady while theclub has been in trust and operators have been doing everythingthey can to keep members happy.

“We’re not losing a tremendous amount of money on it,” Wheelersaid. “We’re still holding the status quo.”

Wheeler said he has relied on the golf and tennis pros to runthe club, as well as help from Mark Lewis, who at one time managedsome of Ebbers’ assets.

Even though there are a few things that need attention at theclub, Wheeler said the golf course itself is in its best shapeever.

“We’re just waiting for someone to bite,” he said.

Wheeler hopes that the country club will remain a club and thatwhoever purchases it will keep it that way in the future and notturn it into a housing development.

For now, Wheeler said the club will remain open and forsale.

Earlier last week, Ebbers’ Angelina Plantation in Louisiana soldfor “just north of $30 million,” Wheeler said. The property willclose at the end of the month.

The plantation consists of 27,000 acres of farming land, a grainelevator and a flying service.

All monies received from the sale of Ebbers’ property is placedinto a fiduciary fund that will be distributed to the plaintiffs inthe class-action lawsuit brought against the WorldCom CEO when thecompany collapsed.