The owners of Alvamar Inc. are working to sell their two golf courses, country club operation and other recreational aspects of the company that helped drive much of Lawrence’s western growth since the late 1960s.
Asking price: $6.5 million.
“Alvamar has been an asset from day one, and remains an enormous asset for this community,” said Bob Johnson, chairman of Alvamar’s board of directors. “It is our expectation that it will continue as that well into the future. … It is significant, and our intent is to treat it as such for the shareholders and the community.”
Alvamar leaders officially put the company’s recreational assets on the market two weeks ago, looking to give the company’s 120 shareholders a chance to liquidate their investments. Many shareholders have been owners for more than 25 years, and are ready to move on now that they’ve reached retirement age and beyond.
“It is a sale being proposed by the choice of the owners, and not a dictate by any other source,” Johnson said.
Current board members took over operations at Alvamar several years ago, following the death of Alvamar founder Bob Billings. The transition led to litigation over past operations, pitting the current board against previous management.
The litigation has since been settled — terms remain confidential — and the company’s recreation segment swung from a loss of $426,000 in 2006 to a profit of $72,853 last year. An audited projection forecasts profit climbing to more than $368,000 a year in 2015, thanks in large part to continued increases in membership.
“We’ve put it in position to be salable, but if it doesn’t sell, it can continue as a positive operation,” Johnson said.
Company representatives already have heard from a handful of brokers, including one who qualifies as a potential “legitimate, bona fide inquiry,” Johnson said.
“If we were selling a house and we were having an open house, I’d say we’d had a couple of people walk through,” he said. “It’s absolutely encouraging.”
Not included in the marketing is the other side of Alvamar’s asset list: 17 parcels totaling 165 acres of residential and commercial property — some of it developed, most of it not — at the west side of Lawrence.
Bob McKinney, chairman of Alvamar’s executive committee, said that the company’s leaders had decided to pursue a sale of the recreational assets because those were showing increased revenues and ongoing opportunities, given the current economic climate.
“The golf course probably has better marketability than the other land,” McKinney said.
Alvamar has hired SD Investments, of Tampa, Fla., to assess the market and seek potential buyers. The offering includes both 18-hole golf courses; the private clubhouse, dining room and related operations; the public clubhouse, pro shop and snack bar; an indoor/outdoor private practice facility; cart storage; a maintenance building; and access to a private pool on the campus of Bishop Seabury Academy.
Also part of the deal would be more than 1,000 Alvamar golf and social memberships. Alvamar has 70 full-time, permanent employees.
While the overall golf market is in “considerable distress,” there are deals being consummated, said Larry Hirsh, president of Golf Property Analysts, a Pennsylvania-based firm that has handled more than 2,500 course appraisals and related work in 45 states, Canada and the Caribbean.
“People are buying and selling them,” said Hirsh, who has been appraising courses and their operations for 25 years. “It’s just very difficult to get financing.”