SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – A couple claims that Jack Nicklaus cost them their $1.5 million membership fee in a golf and ski resort bearing his name, which never was built. They say Nicklaus knew the deal was in financial trouble, and “walked away, claiming he was not responsible for the loss of the (plaintiffs’) funds.”
Jeffrey and Judee Donner say they paid the money for membership in the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club/Mt. Holly, near Beaver in central Utah.
Nicklaus and his company, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club LLC, promoted the Mount Holly Club as a “luxury” haven, featuring a golf course, four alpine lakes, hiking and biking trails, fly fishing, swimming and an equestrian center – and as the world’s first private resort with ski-in, ski-out and golf-in, golf-out amenities, according to the federal complaint.
But the Donners say ground was never broken on the property.
They claim the defendants advertised Mt. Holly in The Wall Street Journal and other publications, and produced a glossy brochure with images of the iconic golfer and the Tushar Mountains.
Charter membership was available for $1.5 million and allowed buyers access to 25 of Nicklaus’ courses worldwide, including New Zealand, Argentina, Tuscany and the Bahamas, and a Mt. Holly course-side lot, according to the complaint.
The Donners say they put down $400,000 in December 2007 and paid the balance days later. The first nine holes of the Nicklaus-designed Mt. Holly course were to open in 2008, the back nine in 2009.
“In reality, the development was in default on various loans, the development was embroiled in a lawsuit that sought to bring it to a halt, and MHC did not have the requisite permits necessary to begin development,” the Donners say.
“Nicklaus and JNGC had knowledge of financial and other problems facing the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club/Mt. Holly and MHC, but failed to disclose that information,” they add.
“When it became apparent that the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club/Mt. Holly had failed, Nicklaus walked away, claiming he was not responsible for the loss of the Donners’ funds,” according to the complaint.
The Donners say that in the promotional brochure Nicklaus called the resort “the ideal alpine setting. I knew from my first visit there that we had been given a canvas on which to design a truly spectacular golf course. I am so impressed with the Mt. Holly Club and its management team that I became a founding charter member. I look forward to seeing you there. Jack Nicklaus.”
The Donners say never received the promised course-side real estate, nor did they get their money back.
They want their $1.5 million membership fee returned, with interest, and exemplary damages for misrepresentation, breach of contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act.
The two defendants are Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus Golf Club LLC.
The Donners are represented by George Haley with Holland & Hart.
Beaver, a town of about 2,500 some 200 miles south of Salt Lake City, is the birthplace of the famously good-natured outlaw Butch Cassidy and of Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television.