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Interview With Tom Brown U.S. Assets Group By Ed Bertha

tom-brown-founders-club

Interview with Tom Brown

Innovative Developer – U.S. Assets Group

By Ed Bertha

Since founding U.S. Assets Group in 1993 Tom Brown and his partners have set a new standard in developing luxury communities in Sarasota. The oasis of laid-back charm that is the Orchid Beach Club on Lido Key; the 17-story Beau Ciel, with panoramic views of the Sarasota waterfront; en Provence on Longboat Key, overlooking the sapphire-blue Gulf of Mexico from a French Mediterranean villa and The Founders Club, a gated 700-acre community of 262 single-family estate homes surrounding an exclusive Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed golf course have all redefined lavish living on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Sitting on the verandah of The Founders Club’s Golf Hall overlooking the 18th fairway, I had the opportunity to engage this accomplished community builder.

EB: Tom, as I understand it this is the 5th-year anniversary of the Founders Club.

TB: Yes it is The Founder Club’s 5th-year anniversary. Five seems to be the magic number. It took 5 years to plan and obtain the permits before development began. Roll forward 5 years to this point and we are half built-out and have 50% of our golf memberships in place. Making adjustments to our business plan to accommodate the significant changes in the local and national business environment, we are looking at another 5 years to complete sales in the community.

EB: Tell me more about the Golf Club and its finances.

TB: There’s not a finer Club and golf course in Sarasota. The golf course is challenging, yet very enjoyable to play on a regular basis by our members. Our Club is the only member-owned club in the area with no tee times and a caddy program, which our members love. From a financial standpoint, The Founders Golf Club cost $17 million to build, and, enviably, is debt free, other than a reasonable operating budget and capital line of credit recently adopted by the Club. The reserve covers operating and capital needs of the Club, and was funded by Equity Members and the Developer. This puts the Club in a very favorable position financially compared to many other clubs, both locally and nationally.

EB: Is the Club an equity club owned by the members?

TB: Yes, and in fact, the Developer recently transferred the remaining unsold equity memberships to the Equity Members. As a result, proceeds from the sale of Equity memberships now will go to the Club to secure the repayment of any funding from the line of credit provided by the Members, as well as funding any future needs of the Club.
 
EB: What types of membership programs are available?

TB: The Founders Golf Club offers three membership categories; Golf, Associate Golf and Social. Of particular interest to members of other clubs and local working professionals is the Associate Golf membership, which offers limited play in season and unlimited play out of season at very reasonable dues. All membership categories are available under the Equity and Invitational programs. To date we have approximately 200 members across all categories.

EB: The economy has challenged everyone. What did The Founders Club do to adjust to the economic climate?

TB: In October of 2009, with the support of the Equity Members, major changes were made to membership pricing. Equity memberships were repriced to $47,500 for Equity Golf and $18,000 for Equity Social memberships. On the Invitational memberships you can now obtain a Golf membership for a $5,000 refundable deposit, or $1,000 refundable deposit for a Social membership.

EB: Tom, one last question. Has the change in membership pricing really produced the results you expected?

TB: Ed, it absolutely has. Since enacting the changes in October of last year we are nearing 30 new members. That number will certainly increase based upon the activity we are seeing. We have a very special Club and have made the changes necessary to ensure its long-term viability. The Founders Golf Club will continue to be one of the finest clubs and golf courses in Sarasota and the country. 

Click here to visit The Founders Club

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