Low-profile builder Treasure Hill Homes is stepping into the spotlight with a $250-million offer to redevelop the lands of Ontario’s Beacon Hall Golf Club, a course that is ranked among the best in the country.
Vaughan-based Treasure Hill, founded 17 years ago by entrepreneur Nicholas Fidei, confirmed on Wednesday it won a hotly contested bidding war for Beacon Hall, a 200-acre property in Aurora, just north of Toronto.
Last week, Beacon Hall’s board told its 260 members it had settled on a potential buyer, but did not reveal the company’s identity. Beacon Hall’s members stand to pocket about $960,000 each if they agree to sell.
The board put the 32-year-old club’s land up for sale after an unsolicited offer three years ago indicated a huge increase in its value.
Mr. Fidei, a 42-year-old ardent golfer and cyclist, now faces the daunting task of converting the club’s land into a suburb at a time when many members, neighbours and Aurora’s mayor oppose transforming fairways into driveways.
The country’s largest golf course owner, Club Link, is several years into fights with neighbourhood groups over plans to build homes on the grounds of the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville and Kanata Golf and Country Club in Ottawa.
“The sale of Beacon Hall would be a tremendous loss for the town of Aurora,” mayor Tom Mrakas said in an e-mail on Wednesday. “This golf course is one of the premier courses, with many championships played here. While the town has no authority over the sale, I want to be clear that any development application to change the existing land-use designations of Beacon Hall golf course lands would have to conform to the existing policies of the town’s official plan.”
Mr. Fidei said in an e-mail that any development will include significant parkland, and that the offer for Beacon Hall is conditional on Treasure Hill inspecting the site. The golf course winds through woodlands and is one of the few undeveloped pieces of real estate on Yonge Street, a major traffic artery.
“Our preliminary work has indicated that while there is a substantial opportunity to develop an exciting new residential community on these lands, a significant portion of the lands will remain as open space and will likely be conveyed into public ownership through the development process,” he said. “We are looking forward to the prospect of working with community stakeholders and municipal staff to deliver a ‘legacy community’ that will stand as one of Aurora’s most sought after residential enclaves.”
Privately owned Treasure Hill has built more than 10,000 homes in the Toronto suburbs and Florida, and gone largely unnoticed in media. Recently, the company successfully linked developments to golf, selling 100 homes near Aurora’s Magna Golf Club in three days last summer. The developer priced the single-family properties at $1.3-million to $1.6-million. These homes sold at the same time developer Trillyan Investment Ltd. acquired the Magna property and said it will continue as a golf course.
Beacon Hall members paid $40,000 to $80,000 to join the club and gain an equity stake, along with about $15,000 in annual dues. An often-acrimonious debate over the club’s future that began with the offer three years ago now pits those who are wealthy enough to pass up a potential windfall because they enjoy the course against those who see a $960,000 payout as a significant personal gain.
Members are scheduled to vote on Treasure Hill’s offer in February, and two-thirds of the golfers must approve the sale. Beacon Hall’s ranks include current and retired CEOs, lawyers and investment bankers. The golf club and its members declined to comment on the sale.
Treasure Hill’s bid may also face opposition from the owners of condominiums on the Beacon Hall property. In an e-mail to its members last week, the condo owner’s board said it is not willing to negotiate with a prospective purchaser, even if the golf club members agree to a sale.
Mr. Fidei’s friends say the father of four can navigate the challenges that come with buying Beacon Hall, or walk away if the project becomes unprofitable. “As a wealth adviser working with business owners, I seldom encountered entrepreneurs who are as successful as Nick,” said Richard Dri, a portfolio manager at Scotia Wealth Management in Toronto. “He has an uncommon instinct of knowing when to keep pushing and when it’s time to pivot. Some entrepreneurs pivot too early and never achieve success, others pivot too late and end up in bankruptcy.”
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