Sea Trail Resort, a three-course facility in Sunset Beach, N.C., that has been owned by members of four area families since its founding in 1976, is seeking an investor capable of taking over operation of the golf courses and accompanying businesses.
The owners have hired The Plasencia Group, a national hospitality real estate investment and advisory firm, to assist in the search.
"We just want to get a good fit for the company as well as the community," said Ed Gore, one of Sea Trail's founders, along with his wife, Dina, and three other married couples. "I would like to see an individual or group come in and take over the operations and make decisions to make it what it can be. We've got a lot of opportunity there."
The 2,000-acre Sea Trail Resort includes courses designed by Rees Jones, Dan Maples and Willard Byrd, two golf clubhouses, completed housing developments, a 50,000-square-foot convention center, an estimated 400-unit rental business, unsold vacant lots andapproximately 240 acres of undeveloped land.
The shareholders in Sea Trail Corp are the Gore, Thompson, Dennis and Pope couples, along with all their children and descendants.
A subsidiary of Charleston Hotels has been operating or assisting with rental properties, golf packages and the convention center.
Sea Trail has been hurt by a recession that has stalled the property's real estate sales, rental sales and convention business, and golf revenue has been affected by a drop in peak-season combined green and cart fees from more than $100 per player to $70 or less this year depending on the course. Green/cart fees go as low as $40 in the summer and winter.
Sea Trail's drop in rounds pricing has been influenced by aggressive pricing at nearby Oyster Bay Golf Links as part of the low-pricing policy at the five former Legends Group courses by new course owners Century Golf Partners.
The Plasencia Group has been involved in transactions involving residential golf communities including PGA National in Palm Beach, Fla., Amelia Island Plantation near Jacksonville, Fla., and the Hills of Lakeway in Austin, Texas. Dennis Reed, Plasencia's senior vice president of the Southeast Region, said it was also involved in the sale of properties in Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach to Felcor Lodging Trust in the 1990s.
Reed said Plasencia's search is "three-pronged: to find a passive investor, a golf management company to manage the courses, then a residential builder. If we could not find all three in one package then we could bring different components to finish the resort and give the resort what it needs.
"... This is not an easy task given the recessionary time we're in," Reed added. "Things like this can take four to six months depending on the circumstances."
Gore believes the shareholders would consider selling Sea Trail outright if the offer and buyer were right for the property. "I think we will entertain all forms of offers," Gore said.
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