Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wentworth members prevail as owners drop proposal of $167,000 increase in fees

A 2010 aerial view of Wentworth's clubhouse and the West Course's first hole
A 2010 aerial view of Wentworth's clubhouse and the West Course's first hole ( Getty Images ) 
Wentworth members have won their battle with Chinese owners Reignwood, and will not have to pay a proposed $167,000 debenture fee to remain at the club.
After nearly five months of members’ protest, Reignwood have made a 180-degree about-face and scrapped plans that had members writing letters to members of parliament and threatening to quit the club.
The move comes just days before an Extraordinary General Meeting where members intended to voice their concerns to representatives of the club.
“This is a very positive step forward,” said Nigel Moss, spokesman for the members' protest group Wet Feet. “There are some outstanding issues but many of our concerns have now been addressed.”
Reignwood bought the club in 2014 from previous owner Richard Caring for $209 million. Aside from the $167,000 debenture members were being asked to pay, Reignwood proposed a doubling of annual subscriptions to $25,000. The membership was also to be slashed from 4,000 to just 800.
These proposals have now been scrapped.
John Pyle, vice-chairman of the Wentworth Residents Association which represents the 1,100 members on the Wentworth Estate, said: “We sincerely hope that these proposals will offer a platform to rebuild this great institution for the long term interests of the estate.”
Pyle added that he was “cautiously optimistic that we are now on the right track.”
The residents' association had promised disruptive action to the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship to be staged over the West Course in May. Wentworth, which hosted the 1953 Ryder Cup at the West Course, has been home to the tournament since 1984. Among the proposed actions were legal challenges to the closure of roads on the estate, to two concerts to promote the event and denying promoters the right to erect billboard advertising.
These legal challenges will now be scrapped.
In a statement, Wentworth said it had dropped its proposed membership restructuring after “a significant number of positive and constructive meetings between member and resident representatives.”
Wentworth’s chief executive Stephen Gibson said: “For several months, we have been working to find the right solution to include as many current members as possible in the new vision for Wentworth Club.
“(It) clearly shows our commitment to our existing members and local estate residents, who are an integral part of the club’s past and our future.”
Songhua Ni, president of Reignwood Group, said: “We have listened to a variety of differing interests from members and estate residents. We are continuing to make every effort to accommodate those, whilst focusing on our vision of making Wentworth Club the world’s premier private golf and country club.”
Call it a victory for common sense, or simply a coming to sense.



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