Trump to buy Irish resort built by Kiawah Partners

Doonbeg Golf Club is on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare. It's never made money.

The Donald has a deal to buy Doonbeg.

Billionaire real estate investor and TV personality Donald J. Trump announced Tuesday that his Trump Organization is buying the financially ailing Irish golf resort that was developed by locally based Kiawah Partners.

The sale price was estimated at $20.5 million. Trump's firm said it signed the sale agreement Saturday.

The Greg Norman-designed course will join 15 other layouts with the Trump brand on them.

"Doonbeg is an already terrific property that we will make even better - it will soon be an unparalleled resort destination with the highest standards of luxury," Trump said in a statement Tuesday.

A representative for his New York-based company did not respond to a request for further comment.

The developer and host of the reality show "Celebrity Apprentice" plans to rename the 400-acre seaside property Trump International Golf Links, Ireland. The Lodge at Doonbeg, a 218-suite upscale hotel on the grounds with a spa and several restaurants, will be turned over to his hotel management company.

Kiawah Partners referred questions to the Trump Organization.

The local real estate firm placed the swanky but financially draining getaway into receivership about a month ago as part of the plan to sell it. The firm appointed the accounting firm EY to run the golf club and hotel.

"There was a tremendous level of interest from domestic and international investors in this property." EY executive Luke Charleton said in a statement.

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The sale was struck about eight months after South Street Partners bought Kiawah Partners for an estimated $360 million. The Charlotte-based buyer has now sold all the overseas properties that were part of the sale. It is focusing on developing and selling the residential lots it controls on Kiawah Island.

Under its previous owner, Kiawah Partners ventured to County Clare on Ireland's rugged west coast for its first big overseas real estate deal.

When Doonbeg opened for play in mid-2002, more than 170 members had paid a $50,000 initiation fee. But the resort and its acclaimed links-style course have never made money. The total losses exceeded $70 million through 2011, according to public reports filed with Irish authorities.

Ireland's housing bust and other struggles since the 2008 global financial crisis continued to hurt the resort in recent years. Also, Doonbeg's remote location posed another challenge.

The sale to Trump marks his second business connection to the Lowcountry. Son Donald Trump Jr. is an investor in a North Charleston real estate development. The younger Trump and brother Eric are scheduled to visit Doonbeg on Wednesday.