Best of 2010 (4th in series)

'til Debt Do Us Part Award

Winner: Cliffs Communities, upstate SC and NC

Runner-Up: Balsam Mtn. Preserve, Waynesville, NC


        Unlike the mythical Icarus, who flew too high and fell to earth, Jim Anthony, developer of the upscale Cliffs Communities, was lucky to have a large group of wealthy residents ready to break his fall.  They loaned him $60 million to finish construction of the amenities he had promised, including a few wellness centers and two new golf courses, one by Gary Player and the other Tiger Woods’ first design on American soil.  Without the loan, Anthony would have been forced to borrow

The Cliffs' Tiger Woods course is on hold, at least for the next few years.

from an investment group or bank, putting The Cliffs legendary amenities potentially beyond the control of its well-heeled residents.  Not every property owner ponied up the minimum $100,000 contribution to the total loan, but those who did are receiving their choice of a double-digit return or the waiver of club dues over the next seven years.  And should Anthony default on the loan, the residents who loaned him the money will then own the amenities, which is the customary eventual arrangement in most golf communities anyway.


There is no denying the quality of the six Cliffs golf courses, soon to be joined by a new Gary Player layout.  Whether an impending Tiger Woods design will round out the roster is an open question.


        As the year ended, one of the finer points of the loan arrangement was revealed as The Cliffs announced it was putting the brakes on all amenities except for the Gary Player designed golf course and clubhouse at Mountain Park, which are nearly complete.  That means the Tiger Woods course won’t open for at least a few years, if ever.  The agreement between the property owners and Anthony had contemplated that if real estate sales lagged expectations, which they have, work on some of the amenities could be suspended.

        At Balsam Mountain Preserve, a single community whose amenities rival those of The Cliffs, including a tough top of the mountain Arnold Palmer course, well-regarded developers Chaffin & Light became a little overextended.  Lucky for the property owners that most of the community's funding was from the investment firm TriLyn, and its principal Mark Antoncic saw more benefit in taking over than in dumping the unsold properties at a loss.  He was nimble enough to foreclose quickly.  Reports from Balsam Mountain are that property sales are creeping along as well as any communities that appeal to the wealthy, and property owners are eager to work with their new hero.

        [Note:  If we were giving out an award for Greatest Display of Loyalty to Someone Who May Not Deserve It, Cliffs Developer Jim Anthony himself would be the recipient.  He stuck by his friend Tiger Woods after the disclosures of the star’s serial adultery.  Anthony was one of a select few in the audience at Woods’ mea culpa press conference which, if we were giving out additional awards related to the Woods imbroglio, would be tops in the category of Most Belated Confession Managed by a Crew of Enablers.  Of course, the Nike ad of Woods’ father imparting advice from the grave gets the award for Creepiest Marketing Ploy of the Year.]


Balsam Mountain Preserve and its dramatic Arnold Palmer layout were saved by the investment firm that had loaned the developer most of his working capital.

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