More than a dozen groups are interested in buying the 12,500-acre Jeremy Ranch from the bank that picked up the property in a foreclosure sale Monday.
"We are cautiously optimistic," said George A. Hunt, attorney for Virginia Beach Federal Savings Bank. "We have been contacted by 10 to 15 groups who have expressed considerable interest. The bank will be conducting a nationwide marketing effort. We are hopeful we will find an appropriate purchaser."Virginia Beach bought the land - which includes the golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, unsold home lots and 10,000 acres of back country - for $11.4 million at a brief foreclosure sale held at the Summit County Courthouse in Coalville.
The bid was actually a credit bid. The ranch's previous owners, Jeremy Ltd., owe the bank $32.7 million. The $11.4 purchase price was deducted from the $32.7 million, Hunt said.
The bank has scant hope for the rest of the money. "It's highly unlikely that any of the balance will ever be collected," Hunt said.
More than 600 members of Jeremy Ranch have watched the ranch's involuntary bankruptcy closely. The bank forced the ranch into bankruptcy earlier this fall when it learned that Jeremy Ltd. did not have the $22,000 it needed to winterize the golf course, providing turf, waterlines, gasoline tanks and equipment with needed protection from the cold.
The members are worried they will lose their club privileges when a new owner takes over.
Some of the "founder members" paid between $25,000 and $75,000 for lifetime memberships at Jeremy Ranch, said David Leta, attorney for the members. For their money, members had free use of the ranch's facilities, including the golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, back country and fishing stream.
Other members paid up to $5,000 for initial memberships and have paid regular dues since.
Virginia Beach will not strike a deal with any of the members over their continued use of the facilities, Hunt said.
"The bank will wait until it finds a buyer and let the buyer make that decision," he said. The bank is fearful of scaring away potential buyers by forging a binding agreement with the members that a buyer might find objectionable.
"A new purchaser will likely be willing to deal with the golf club members," Hunt said. However, he warned them not to be too optimistic about retaining free use of the facilities.
"The problem is you have a bunch of people who are playing free golf. It's a nice concept and they would like to selfishly preserve that right. But it's not realistic," he said. "The golf club simply cannot operate as it's presently constituted. Almost half of the members pay no dues. You cannot run a golf course without income. The (funding concept) was fundamentally flawed from the beginning.
"The golf course operates at an annual deficit approaching $300,000 and it has from its inception."
Most of the ranch will stay shut down during the winter, Hunt said. Summit Cross Country will offer cross-country skiing on the ranch's back country as it did last year. The skiing opens Friday.
Hunt downplayed rumors that the ranch may be included in an international chain of golf courses catering to an itinerant international clientele.
"There are two foreign groups that had expressed interest, but I have heard nothing about making it part of an international chain," he said.