Rival offers $11.8M for bankrupt golf course

The practice putting green at The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek.

A rival bidder has emerged for an exclusive Johns Island golf course that’s seeking to climb out of bankruptcy.

A New York real estate company with ties to a Charleston marina and condominium development is offering $11.8 million to buy The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek.

The bid was submitted by R. Black Global LLC, according to documents filed Monday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. A group that includes billionaire Houston Texans owner Robert McNair and two other founding members of Briar’s Creek submitted the original “stalking horse” offer of $11.3 million earlier this year. The auction rules require that any competing bids must increase the price by at least $500,000.

A court auction is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the buyer.

R. Black Global describes itself on its website as “a vehicle to pursue international development opportunities and provide consulting services for ultra high-net-worth investors.”

The firm is headed by Ryan Black, who formerly worked for Ripley Light Yacht Club investor Kriti Management, which is owned by a wealthy Greek family. That partially completed project across the Ashley River from the peninsula has been bogged down in litigation for years over a rift between Kriti and its development partner.

R. Black Global’s interest in acquiring Briar’s Creek was disclosed at a hearing earlier this month. Ryan Cowell, an executive with the firm, said he and Black have been “fully engaged for the last six weeks” to develop a “more robust” plan for the future of the club and the property.

“We’ve both lived here in town. We both love Charleston and have been bullish on the market here in general,” Cowell said Tuesday. “I think we’re consistently surprised at how much Charleston keeps growing.”

The law firm representing the McNair buyout group declined to discuss the new offer.

Attorneys for the club said in a filing Monday that they had not determined whether R. Black Global’s bid qualified as a valid offer. The bid did not include the mandatory $500,000 deposit or “satisfactory evidence” of the prospective buyer’s ability to finance the all-cash deal, according to the document.

“The bidder has so far declined to identify the source of its funding,” the filing added.

Cowell said he would not publicly discuss the bid details before Wednesday’s court auction.

Briar’s Creek is a members-only, 18-hole course off River Road. Its owner, Briar’s Creek Golf LLC, filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

It blamed the last recession for most of its financial ills. One of the biggest problems was a big drop in dues and other revenue as members dropped out of the club during the long downturn.

McNair, who owns a home on nearby Kiawah Island, is leading a group under the name Briar’s Creek Holdings LLC that’s seeking to buy the bankrupt operation for $11.3 million. It also would invest another $2 million to capitalize a new debt-free private club.

McNair hasn’t proposed any drastic changes, club officials have said. The plan is to retain the existing 50-worker staff and management. Active members and qualified former members would be offered memberships in the new club.

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Among other terms, the purchase agreement calls for McNair and his investors to pay $7.4 million in cash for the Rees Jones-designed course, clubhouse, equipment, undeveloped home lots and other assets.

The membership has been voting to approve or reject the financial terms of the sale. All were in favor as of Tuesday, spokesman Mike Martin said. A judge will determine the winning bidder.

Opened in 2002, Briar’s Creek was named “Best New Private Course” for that year by Golf Digest. Its members include General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.

The bankruptcy filing will enable the club to renegotiate or reduce its $31 million in unsecured debt.

About $26 million of that is made up of refundable initiation fees and loans from club founders and several dozen members. Those liabilities are now worth a fraction of their face value.

Under the sale terms, active members and former members likely will get back a tiny portion of their mostly seven-figure initiation fees. The exact amount has not been determined.

At its peak, the price of entry at Briar’s Creek was about $100,000 for a standard membership, and the monthly dues ran as high as $1,000.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.