Hype springs eternal

    I was sitting at my laptop earlier today, drinking a cup of tea and trying to decide what I might write about today.  Because of a crowded desk, I put the cup down on a window ledge -- on top of a large, leather bound portfolio that was sent to me a few years ago by a central Florida community, Bella Collina.  This was real leather, by the way, not faux, and about the size of a calf's back.
    I recall wondering what kind of corporate ego would send something like that to potential customers without qualification.  Bella Collina certainly didn't

I wondered if residents knew their investments were going for leather-bound marketing materials rather than amenities, or a rainy day fund for the developer.

ask me for income data, so I have to assume that thousands of folks received the leather portfolio, whether they were viable candidates for the deluxe community or not.  (One real estate contact told me today that she recently tossed her 10 leather copies.)  I wondered also, at the time, if I would want to actually live in a community of people who were impressed with such largesse, and I thought of the first people to buy in Bella Collina and whether they knew their investments were being reinvested in such expensive ephemera, rather than in amenities or a rainy day fund for the developer in case of some market crisis or the other.
    Those who know Bella Collina's parentage know where this is going.  Bella Collina is a Bobby Ginn community, and Mr. Ginn's empire is falling in upon itself, as reported here and in local news media in Florida and the Carolinas where Ginn communities have been handed over to other property managers in the wake of the company's default on a $675 million Credit Suisse loan.  As we wrote here yesterday, now the PGA is suing Ginn for having abruptly dropped sponsorship of a Champions Tour event scheduled at a Ginn golf course in less than two months.
    You can tell a lot about an organization by the marketing material it sends out.  When the package is way more elaborate than the content, red
"The Bobby Ginn record now completes the full cycle of what an overblown ego can get you.  His wasteland extends from Hilton Head to the Bahamas," wrote one resident.

flags go up for me (I spent 30 years in corporate communications and know a little something about the game.)  Ego was stamped all over the leather, a signal that this was an organization that did not know much about cost control.  That is passable during boom times, but when a crisis hits, boom turns to bust.  As one Ginn community resident wrote on a real estate blog site in the last few days, "The Bobby Ginn record now completes the full cycle of what an overblown ego can get you.  His wasteland extends from Hilton Head to the Bahamas, and I hope no one is stupid enough to trust him again."
    Chances are that residents won't have Bobby Ginn to kick around much longer.  The reneging on the Champions Tour and LPGA events signals a crushed ego and a crushed empire.  For a discerning few, distress could signal an opportunity.  Ginn lots and homes are selling at a deep discount not only to the past pricing, but also relative to the scope of amenities in Ginn communities where the developer kept at least some of his promises.  Few criticize Ginn for the quality of those amenities; the golf courses are, of course, good enough to host professional golf events, and some of the clubhouses are described as exquisite even by residents who castigate the man behind them.  If a good management company or new owner steps in to manage the Ginn properties -- hotel operator Wyndham is rumored to be considering an involvement -- then things may begin to stabilize and an early buyer could land a bargain.
    Still, buying a property in a troubled community is risky business.  But if you are in position to shoulder a little risk for the potential of a great lifestyle in a high-end golf community, this might be your time.  I have a good real estate contact supremely knowledgeable about Ginn properties; she has visited all of them and was one of the first to warn of Ginn's troubles.  If you want more information about Ginn resorts and communities, let me know and I will put you in touch with her.

Want more information about Ginn properties or any other golf communities in the southern U.S.? Contact me by using the link at the top of the page.


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