Fresno, CA is a city of approximately half a million population. It is located smack dab in the middle of the state.
The Running Horse golf course and residential project is in southwest Fresno and is in bankruptcy court. It is a development of approximately 420 acres designed to have up to 780 upscale homes, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and the likelihood of a PGA Tour event. PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said Fresno "remains a market of very significant interest to us over the longer term."
It sits as a gold mine and an owner with financial problems.
Enter Donald Trump, the publicity-seeking developer whose wealth is estimated at $2.9 billion by Forbes. He landed at the Fresno Air Terminal in his private jet, was met by his entourage, and went out and kicked the dirt around at Running Horse. Shortly thereafter, the Donald announced he wanted to buy the project for ten million dollars and turn it into a world class community capable of hosting a PGA Tour event in 2008 and beyond. His timeline if he's to do the deal is that construction must begin in 30 to 45 days.
The sad news is that the total debt on Running Horse could be 65 million or more, with approximately 300 creditors and of course the Donald wants the property delivered free and clear of all liens. There are investors and lot buyers who have millions of dollars tied up in the project and could lose most or all of their money. The Donald had other requirements as a condition of sale, too. He said the City would have to spring for the twenty five million it would cost for road improvements around the project. He also wants the tax base to be held for ten to fifteen years.
For purposes of this article, the word "steal" is defined as, "To get for oneself slyly or by skill and daring." The Donald did offer ten million which he upped to twenty five million the next day. He clearly wants Running Horse, he loves golf, has involvement in six other courses but nothing would please him more than to be the owner of a course where he could put on a PGA golf tournament.
City officials trekked to the site to meet the Donald; among them was Fresno Mayor, Alan Autry. You may remember him as Bubba from the old sitcom, "In the Heat of the Night." He and the others would clearly like to see a man of the Donald's deep pockets affect a run-down neighborhood's financial and social fabric. It is an area that hasn't had much in decades. Further, the trench where the sunken fairways are to go are raising public health issues.
The current owner told creditors he might jump-start the project himself, but doesn't have a firm commitment on a fifteen million dollar loan he would require to do so. His hope was to resume work, and repay creditors as lots are sold.
Is Donald Trump the savior or the vulture sweeping in to devour the bones of those caught up in the throes of investments and dreams gone bad?
The Donald has said, "I don't make deals for the money, I've got enough, much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it." Of course, the Trump name will enhance the value of this property and everything around it. With the hundreds of millions of dollars he stands to make here--maybe a more decent offer would be appropriate.