The local investor group – Fianna Golf LLC – formed to buy the shuttered Fianna Hills Country Club and golf course in Fort Smith believes the effort is “very feasible” and will make a second push for the facility, according to group spokesman Pete Charlton.
At the end of August, Charlton said a deal to buy the club from owner David Millé was dead after the two parties disagreed on terms of extending the original offer to buy the facility. Fianna Golf had agreed to pay $1.1 million for the club and course – which has been closed since Dec. 31, 2018 – by Sept. 15 but a few issues found during due diligence created the need to delay the closing. Roof damage from hail storms was not fixed properly and the group was working with a professional management company to develop a pro forma business plan required by the bank interested in financing the deal.
Millé has refused to talk about the issue and told Talk Business & Politics to not contact him by phone about the potential sale of the club and the course. He also has not responded to e-mails seeking comments on the issue.
The investor group met Sept. 3 to figure out what to do next, and Charlton said the consensus was unanimous to try again to buy the club and course. He said the one person who wanted a check returned said they would write another check if another offer is made.
“Everybody there wants the golf course bought and renovated,” Charlton said, adding that his job now is to “get this thing off high center and get it bought.”
The caveat is that it may take more money than originally planned to rehab the building and grounds. The roof work, for example, will be at least $100,000. Charlton said the group did not object to that reality.
“I told them we either need to do this (right), or let’s just forget it. And everybody there (at the Sept. 3 meeting) is, ‘No, no, no, let’s do it. Let’s go forward.’ And I said, ‘Ok, but we will need a lot more money.’ And so there was some new people that came forward and said ‘I will give this and I will give that.’ And we do have some heavy hitters that will probably come in,” Charlton said.
Charlton also said there are “people sitting on the fence” who want to give money but are waiting to see if the group can first buy the facility.
The investor group is working to send out 1,600 letters to area homeowners in the next few weeks explaining what they are trying to do. Charlton believes there are some people who don’t know they are trying to buy the club and may want to participate even if their home is not near the course.
Raising more money is also necessary, Charlton said, to ensure the club has more operating capital to better ensure success. If the club and grounds are bought, Charlton said the group will begin doing several things in parallel. They will work to recruit a professional firm to manage the operations. They will also begin “a lot of” renovations, including new floors, paint, ceilings, and possible redesign of the bar and restaurant area. Charlton also said Fianna Golf has talked with three different people interested in operating the bar and restaurant, but would not disclose their identity. Charlton also said they may dig a well to help with water costs.
If all goes well, Charlton said, Fianna Hills Country Club could be up and running with a renovated clubhouse, new fairways and greens, and professional management by spring 2021. He stressed several times during the interview that the project is “very feasible” and depends on the group’s ability to renegotiate a deal with Millé.