Ex-Kiawah Partners CEO buys Caribbean project from former firm


When Buddy Darby left as chief executive of Kiawah Partners this month, he said he planned to use the experience he had gained over the past 25 years “to explore new opportunities.”

He found an opportunity in short order, but it isn’t exactly new.

Darby and his family are part of a group that’s buying a 2,500-acre luxury marina and resort development that he had spearheaded in the West Indies while at the helm of Kiawah Partners.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Darby Family Investment Group said this week it has executed an option to acquire and resume management of Christophe Harbour property on St. Kitts in a partnership with Nevis Sugar Investment Diversification Foundation and the local government.

“The opportunity to be fully committed to St. Kitts and our positive partnership with (the foundation) is the best possible outcome for Christophe Harbour,” Darby said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have the resources and support that will allow us to fulfill our vision of making Christophe Harbour a world-class property.”

St. Kitts is southeast of Puerto Rico. Kiawah Partners announced its would develop the island’s southeast peninsula in 2007.

Plans call for hotels, restaurants, boutiques, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, upscale homes and a “mega-yacht” harbor and marina where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.

To date, a beach club has been built along with a temporary dock, a handful of residences and some small bungalows. Coincidentally, on the same day the Kiawah Partners sale was announced, a Mideast investment group broke ground on a Hyatt hotel on the property.

The sale means Christophe Harbour will continue under its original leadership, “and the forward momentum of real estate sales, marina construction and hotel development will continue without interruption,” Darby’s group said in a statement.

Darby was a cofounder of Kiawah Partners, which acquired the bulk of Kiawah Island for $105 million in 1988 and became the primary residential developer of the seaside getaway.

A lawsuit last year forced a sale of the firm this month to Charlotte-based South Street Partners.

Patrick Melton, managing partner of South Street Partners, said on June 3 his firm was “evaluating” what to do with the St. Kitts property as well as a golf development in Ireland.

This week, Melton said the spin-off of Christophe Harbour “will allow South Street to dedicate itself fully to its core philosophy of continuing the residential real estate and private club management at Kiawah ... along with other high-end communities.”

No decision has been made about Doonbeg Golf Club and the Lodge at Doonbeg on the west coast of Ireland, Kiawah Partners spokesman Mike Touhill said.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.