Further to the announcement by the Wentworth Residents Association (WRA) on 31 January 2016, the WRA confirms that it has received a response from The Wentworth Club. In addition, the WRA also notes further updates from the Club in relation to its proposed so-called “debenture” scheme.
Commenting on behalf of the WRA, Vice Chairman John Pyle, said: “We are astounded that the Club appears to continue to reject the very basic and reasonable concerns from residents with regards to the proposed new so-called ‘debenture’ scheme and we entirely reject the minor alterations offered as nothing more than continuing to tinker around the edges. The new owner, Reignwood, is simply not listening to its neighbours who are being entirely alienated from the Club.
“Whilst they may offer a ‘concession’ for the debenture by changing payment to non-refundable instalments, existing members will still be committed to paying the very high ‘debenture’ price over a period of a few years. The ‘debenture’ will continue to offer no equity, no interest and therefore amounts to nothing more than an unsecured loan. It is like having to pay an exorbitant joining fee to the Club. Moreover, by continuing to call this scheme a ‘debenture’, it is an insult to proper debenture clubs which offer fair schemes with ownership rights attached. We reject any ‘debenture’ under the current proposed structure.
“In addition, we also understand that the Club may now be planning to issue 888 debentures under this scheme. Whilst 8 may well be a lucky number in China, it is clearly unlucky for Wentworth members, as well as the wider golfing community, who are set to lose a great golfing institution under this proposal. We continue to reject any scheme which will throw out current members indiscriminately and restricts space for very few to return.
“Whilst the WRA is not able to provide specific details on the contents of the response to its various legal complaints, we note the broadly dismissive reply and are currently taking further legal advice in that regard. We fully stand by those legal complaints and will continue to defend our position.
“It is clear that the Club does not have the support of its current 4,000 members, given that less than 10% of golf members and around 1% of the Tennis & Health members are expected to take up the new scheme, and we therefore urge the Club to listen to its resident members and offer a solution that can work for all. We certainly do not wish to continue to pursue legal avenues. We want a cooperative relationship with the Club but the Wentworth community must not be ruined by a new and hostile owner.
“We therefore urge the Club in the strongest possible terms to listen to its members, from which point we believe a solution can be found.”
Nick Marsh, a partner at Quinn Emanuel, which is providing legal advice to the WRA, added: “The Club’s new Chinese owners intend, in pursuit of their own commercial interests, to impose fundamental changes to the Club and its membership structure. The effect of these changes would be to exclude the majority of Wentworth’s community from facilities which they have enjoyed for many years. The Residents will not allow the Club to damage the Wentworth Estate or to ride roughshod over the Residents’ longstanding property and other legal rights.”