BONITA SPRINGS — Members of the Bonita Bay Club have swung into action.
They’ve struck a tentative agreement to purchase their golf club for $12 million, with $11.5 million coming from members of the new club.
Under the proposed agreement announced Monday, the developer, Bonita Bay Group, would pay the new club $500,000 for the exclusive right to market tee times at the Bonita East courses off Immokalee Road to nonmembers for three years, beginning May 1, according to the community Web site BayWatchNews.com.
The deal must still be approved by Bonita Bay Group’s lenders and by a majority of the club’s membership. It could fall through if at least 85 percent of the current golf members don’t join the new club.
The agreement was negotiated by Bonita Bay’s Turnover Committee after months of wrangling. The announcement came a few days after Bonita Bay Group sold its beach and golf clubs to members at Mediterra for $6.8 million.
Bonita Bay Turnover Committee member Cynthia White described the tentative deal as “fair and in our members’ best interests.”
“We’ve come to an agreement,” she said. “But there is still a lot of work to do.”
“At this point, our goal is to try to get it done as soon as possible,” White said.
The committee will be reaching out to members in the coming weeks to seek approval, she said.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” White said.
The sale would include 90 holes of championship golf, including three courses in the community and two nearby, two clubhouses, three practice ranges, 18 tennis courts, a swim center and a fitness center.
Not included is the marina. Its members are still trying to strike a separate deal with the developer.
Negotiations for the sale of the Bonita Bay Club have been going on for more than seven months. At times, it looked like talks might be over as the two sides clashed.
Over the past few months, some members have pushed for a mass resignation to try to force a sale.
“Both sides negotiated very hard at Bonita Bay,” said Brian Lucas, chairman of the Bonita Bay Group. “Because it’s a community that is 25 years old, there were a lot of subtleties and intricacies to work out.”
The size of the Bonita Bay membership makes it harder to come to an agreement, he said. The club has more than 1,900 golf, sports and social members.
“I feel great about it,” Lucas said of the proposed agreement. “This is a very significant milestone for our restructuring plan. It is very gratifying.”
In a fight to avoid bankruptcy, Bonita Bay Group has looked to sell off all its recreational clubs. It owes about $70 million to its lenders.
The developer still owns clubs in four communities. The others are The Brooks in Estero, TwinEagles in North Naples and Verandah in Fort Myers.
The developer is looking to sell the TwinEagles Club to an outsider. It hopes to sell the Shadow Wood and Commons clubs in Estero to their members by January and has reached an agreement to continue operating the club at Verandah.
According to BayWatchNews.com, Bonita Bay Group will keep the liability for refunds owed to members who resigned or downgraded their membership. The developer will create a $7 million fund to retire promissory notes.
Last year, Bonita Bay Group stopped honoring its policy of refunding deposits to resigning members, despite giving them promissory notes. That has prompted a flurry of lawsuits from members who want their money back.
Art Herman, who quit paying his dues a few months ago and is no longer a member of the club, said the reality is that this is just a general agreement.
“There are many details remaining to be worked out and the members have not approved anything yet,” he said. “Any finalized deal needs an 85 percent approval and that is a high bar to pass over.”
He said members are “cautiously optimistic” that a deal will be struck and soon.
“There are many details to work out yet and that’s where the devil usually resides,” Herman said.
The target date for closing the deal is February.
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.