Trump buys Colts Neck golf club for $28 million

26th July 2008   Trump buys Colts Neck golf club for $28 million  

An agreement is in place for high-profile billionaire Donald Trump to purchase Shadow Isle Golf Club, adding the financially troubled Colts Neck facility to his growing collection of high-end country clubs.

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, Trump has offered more than $28 million to the O'Neill family to purchase the club, which opened in 2004 and includes an 18-hole course designed by former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate, a par-3 short course and a recently completed 58,000-square-foot club-house. The parties currently are in a 15-day due diligence period.

Shadow Isle is in a perilous predicament: It faces a $41.6 million foreclosure lawsuit by Amboy Bank, which financed its development, and $1.2 million in construction liens filed with the Monmouth County Clerk's Office.

Trump was at Shadow Isle on Thursday night, where he met with the club's 110 members, who voted unanimously to accept the deal. The current members, who paid an initiation fee of as much as $150,000 to join Shadow Isle, will be grandfathered in as members of Trump's club.

Trump currently operates seven golf courses, including Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. On the Trump Golf Web site, Trump says he is "committed to creating the world's finest portfolio of golf courses."

"Thursday night was a great evening for this club," said Dr. Joseph Louro of Spring Lake, a Shadow Isle member who headed an ad hoc committee that helped sift through several offers for the facility, including one from ClubCorp, which owns or operates some 170 golf courses, country clubs, private business and sports clubs.

"The Trump organization has been a gem to work with throughout this process. As the chairman of the committee, my job was to represent the interests of the members as we worked out a deal with the interested parties, the O'Neill family and the bank (Amboy National)."

Since opening in 2004, Shadow Isle has struggled to find enough members to make it economically viable, thanks in part to the faltering economy and an over-saturation of the market for high-end golf clubs. Plans had called for a swimming club and tennis pavilion on the site, but those were never added.

The future of Shadow Isle has been the source of constant speculation. In 2005, a group of members from Deal Golf and Country Club considered purchasing the club and selling their course to developers. The plan fell through when the membership at Deal voted it down.

Land records show Shadow Isle Golf Club LLC has financially relied heavily on Amboy Bank of Old Bridge, which has specialized in loans to builders. The club and its developers, Robert C. and Dennis F. O'Neill, borrowed $15.6 million in 2002.

The loan was modified five more times, increasing each time, to $41.6 million in March, according to the foreclosure lawsuit. The last modification came after Robert O'Neill, 56, died in February.

Court officials said Amboy Bank filed the foreclosure suit against Shadow Isle on April 15, 2007. The complaint was amended to add a defendant, Midhattan Woodworking Corp., on May 12, 2008. Shadow Isle has not yet answered the complaint, according to court records.

Thomas W. Halm Jr., an attorney representing Amboy Bank, did not return a call seeking comment.

Robert O'Neill and his brothers, Sean and Dennis, formed Shadow Isle Golf Course LLC and applied for site-plan approval to build a golf course on the land, which is restricted from subdivision by its deed.

In November 2000, the Planning Board granted preliminary approval for the golf course layout as well as a seven-lot subdivision of homes along Leland Road and the addition of 47 acres to the golf course property.

The brothers had purchased an adjoining property so they could enlarge the course to 310 acres, Colts Neck Township Planner Tim Anfuso said.

The O'Neills received final approval for the seven-home subdivision and golf course layout in March 2002. In October 2003, the O'Neills were granted final approval for the construction of the clubhouse, which would contain a dining hall and banquet facility. To date, the clubhouse has received a temporary certificate of occupancy.

By Stephen Edelson, Nina Rizzo and Jason Method • Gannett New Jersey