Turnberry on course for a £55m takeover

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IT IS regarded by many as a jewel in Scotland's sparkling golfing crown, and is consistently ranked among the top courses in the world.

But now the Turnberry resort, with its holes which tax the masters and its sweeping views of the Ayrshire coast, is to be sold to a Dubai-based sovereign wealth firm.

The deal, worth 55 million, will see Leisurecorp, the sports and leisure arm of Dubai World, take over the luxury resort in time for the 2009 Open Championship.

Last night, Leisurecorp's CEO 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. In the first phase of the development of the resort, the firm will invest 28 million.

Martin Dempster, editor of Bunkered, Scotland's golf magazine, welcomed the deal, due to be concluded in October.

He said: "This is an exciting development for Scottish golf and, in particular, the tourism industry in South Ayrshire. Turnberry has long been known as one of the leading golf resorts in the world and now, with backing of an ambitious company in Leisurecorp, exciting times lie ahead. Leisurecorp have vowed to be good and careful guardians. Turnberry is one of Scotland's golfing treasures."

Under the contract, current owners Starwood Hotels and Resorts will continue to manage the resort for the next 30 years and be paid standard management and incentive fees. The hotel will be closed for a major refurbishment from October and will reopen as one of Starwood's Luxury Collection venues.

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.

Mr Spencer said: "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 the north-east 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.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai World, 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.

Big-name courses have wide range of owners

Loch Lomond was the course which formed American billionaire Lyle Anderson's first venture outside the US. His firm, which created its first "community" in 1981, claims to be the premier architect of luxury lifestyle settings. Its portfolio includes deep-sea fishing off Hawaii.

Multi-millionaire Herb Kohler bought the Duke's Course at St Andrews in 2003 for about 35 million. A frequent visitor for many years, he made his money in plumbing. His firm is one of the world's top manufacturers of kitchen and bathroom products.

Despite its lofty reputation, the Old Course is a public one, among six at the home of golf.

It is managed by the St Andrews Links Trust, a charitable organisation created by an Act of Parliament in 1974 to preserve and maintain the Links as golf courses.

Gleneagles, in Perthshire, is owned by the drinks giant Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Baileys.

The company was formed in 1997 from the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

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