The bankruptcy case filed by the Club West Golf Course owner to stop a foreclosure proceeding has jeopardized the 2018-19 golfing season at the site.
A hearing on the bankruptcy petition filed last week by the Inter Tribal Golf Association has been set for Sept. 25 – only a few weeks before overseeding must begin if the course can be ready for golf.
“It’s going to be tight. If we can’t make it by mid-October, you’re not going to have a season,” said Wilson Gee, the former owner who had been poised to regain control of the course on Aug. 21 had not ITGA’s bankruptcy filing a day earlier blocked a trustee sale.
The Foothills Club West Association joined the bankruptcy case as “a party in interest” and its lawyer, Timothy H. Barnes, is the same lawyer who has tangled with Gee’s companies in the long court fight involving the defunct Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course.
But this time, Barnes, who has represented the Club West HOA in other legal matters for what board President Michael Hinz called “a while,” isn’t there to fight with Gee.
He’s there to make sure that Club West homeowners’ interests are protected no matter what the outcome of the bankruptcy, Hinz said.
“We need to be apprised of what’s going on from the font of information – and that’s the court,” said Hinz in explaining why the HOA board has joined the bankruptcy proceeding.
“We want to engage in a way that we can be supportive of whoever ends up with the golf course,” he added. “Our community’s best interest lies with a successful golf course, no matter who the owner is.”
Added Barnes: “We don’t have a dog in this fight. However, we want to make sure that the golf course is looked after according to the CC&Rs.”
Gee nearly two months ago had scheduled the trustee sale after ITGA President Richard Breuninger became delinquent in the payments on a $1.3 million note he signed Dec. 1 to buy the course.
Even before that note was signed, Breuninger through Club West Golf Management used an approximate $350,000 investment from former landfill owner William Day to overseed the course so that by the time the note was signed, Club West had become lush and golfers began flocking to the site.
But by February, the course began turning brown as the Phoenix Water Services Department shut off the water over an unpaid bill totaling more than $215,000. The bill with delinquency fees is now close to $300,000.
As the grass withered and died and the lake level dropped to the point where its fish started dying, Breuninger also fell behind in his $35,000-a-month payments on the note.
Gee told AFN that the course would likely need some additional work before it could be seeded since it has not seen water for months.
It also is unclear whether Gee could get water service restored if he regained control of the course or whether the city would hold him responsible for ITGA’s unpaid bill.
ITGA also could be using the bankruptcy case to buy additional time as it makes its own financing deal that would enable it to pay off its water debt and Gee’s note and re-seed the course.
Breuninger did not return a call for comment and Gee said he has not heard from him either.
One source familiar with bankruptcy proceedings said it is not uncommon for someone to file for creditor protection at the last minute. Also common, the source said, is the absence of much detail in an initial filing.
Basically, the filing by Breuninger and his Denver lawyer contains only boilerplate information.
It lists no creditors or assets by name. On a series of boxes indicating various levels of total debt and number of creditors, checked are boxes for 1 to 49 creditors and $1 million to $10 million in liabilities. Total assets, also not identified, are listed as $1 million to $10 million.
Court rules require a petitioner to file a number of documents within seven to 14 days of its initial filing.
Those documents include a master list of creditors, a list of assets and liabilities and a “statement of financial affairs,” a wide-ranging list of various transactions ranging from gifts and property transfers to legal actions and sources of revenue.
Gee has rescheduled the trustee sale for Sept. 4 – the day those details are supposed to be filed.
But the setting of a hearing date several weeks after that deadline makes it unclear if the chess match between Gee and Breuninger will continue until the Sept. 25 hearing.
Hinz said that the HOA board is hoping for the best, remains optimistic and is taking no sides when it comes to ITGA or Gee.
“All we want to do is support the owner of the golf course, no matter who it is. Our interest isn’t served by who owns the golf course,” Hinz added. “Our best interest lies with the successful operation of the golf course.”
“There are so many different moving parts and pieces in this that we just have to wait,” he said. “There are a lot of things that can happen in the next 30 days. All we want to do is advocate for whoever owns the course. Whether that means talking with the city and trying to get better deal on water or provide easements for a water line. We just want to help.”
Yet, Hinz admitted the HOA and homeowners, especially those near the course, are anxious about the near future.
Asked if homeowners are concerned, he replied: “Concern is an understatement.”