Sunday, 25 May 2008
Turnberry golf resort and hotel’s
new owners plan £28m refurbishment
By: Murdoch MacDonald
TURNBERRY, the historic Ayrshire golf resort that will host next year’s Open Championship, has been purchased by one of the Middle East’s biggest sovereign wealth funds.
[Pictured: Ayrshire's Turnberry Golf Resort and Hotel. CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO VIEW / DOWNLOAD FULL-SIZE VERSION.]
Dubai World, the state-controlled investment firm that owns the QE2 and Tilbury and Southampton docks, has announced that it has agreed to acquire the Scottish venue from its present American owners Starwood Hotels & Resorts for £55 million.
It is buying Turnberry through Leisurecorp, which was set up two years ago as an offshoot of Dubai World to acquire and develop a portfolio of investments in the sports and leisure sector.
Leisurecorp expects to complete the deal by the end of October and plans to close the hotel for an upgrade costing around £28 million. The reopening is scheduled for next May, in time for the Open Championship in July.
Under the terms of the sale, Starwood will continue to run the resort under a 30-year-plus management contract, although the investment programme will lead the hotel to be rebranded from Westin to Starwood’s Luxury Collection.
Turnberry boasts two 18-hole Championship courses – the Ailsa, which has hosted the Open Championship three times, and the Kintyre. There is also the nine-hole Arran Course and the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy.
Leisurecorp’s chief executive of golf David Spencer said the firm was aware how important the resort was to Scotland, and pledged to maintain and improve its high standards.
“I think that anyone who has an understanding of the history of golf sees Turnberry as a must-play destination at some stage in their life. It holds a very special place in the history of golf and also the history of Scotland.
“Our agreement with Starwood to acquire Turnberry is something we have been working on for a long time.
“In our investment in the game of golf, we are very patient about it and very respectful of the role Turnberry has played in the heritage of golf.”
He said he was aware of Donald Trump’s proposed golf course in Aberdeenshire, but expected the two resorts to be very different. He added that the firm would be liaising with the locals and the acquisition was likely to create a number of jobs.
Leisurecorp’s chief executive Alan Rogers said that he saw an opportunity to “create something really special and extraordinary” and to transform Turnberry into “the ultimate golf resort”.
He said that there was an opportunity to profit from the “huge untapped potential of Scotland as a tourist destination” and to broaden the site’s facilities so that it is not reliant solely on golf. “Gleneagles is a good model,” he said.
Mr Rogers said that the refurbishment of the main 130-room hotel - it has a further 79 rooms in cottages and lodges - would be the first phase of a five-year redevelopment of the 800-acre resort.
Starwood has previously highlighted the potential of 300 acres of undeveloped land, which could be used for construction of exclusive villas.
Dubai World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said he was “delighted” at the acquisition of the “world-class destination”.
The parent group owns a vast and varied portfolio which is split into transport and logistics; dry docks and maritime; urban development; and investment and financial services.
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