The trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of The Bull at Pinehurst Farms said Thursday that the pending sale of the golf course to Milwaukee businessman Scott Molitor is “the best possible outcome” for all parties involved.
The sale will present a fresh start for the golf course, for homeowners who surround it and for the community of Sheboygan Falls, said trustee Virginia George.
Using a term any golfer would understand, George called it “a big mulligan” for the highly rated but long financially troubled golf course.
The $3.1 million purchase offer will go before a bankruptcy judge for approval on April 21 and closing is scheduled to follow by April 30, according to a motion for sale entered with the court this week.
Last fall, the owners of the Sheboygan Falls course, the first Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in Wisconsin, were found in default to Wisconsin Bank and Trust for $4.2 million; a sheriff’s sale that had been scheduled for January was canceled at the last minute when the owners filed for bankruptcy. The bank has now agreed to the $3.1 million offer and George said she does not foresee any obstacles that would prevent the sale from going through.
“I believe that on April 21 at three o’clock the judge is going to have a very clean motion to look at with no objections,” said George, a lawyer with the Milwaukee office of the firm of Steinhilber Swanson who was appointed by the court as trustee.
Molitor and his wife, Lynn, are the founders of MilwaukeeJobs.com, which they sold in 2016. Molitor emerged as a buyer after another group of investors was unable to make an offer acceptable to the bank.
Molitor has retained the management company KemperSports to help with due diligence on the purchase, said Kemper’s Ben Blake. He was with Molitor at the golf course this week inspecting the property and expects that Kemper will continue to be involved in the new operation after the sale is approved.
First there is the matter “of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s (but) Scott definitely wants the closing (to take place),” Blake said.
Molitor is a golf enthusiast but wasn’t looking to get into golf course ownership until he became aware of The Bull’s predicament.
“When Scott read about the golf course, he actually has a personal friendship with Jack Nicklaus and it’s a Jack Nicklaus golf course and he got interested,” Blake said.
“This is sort of a confluence of (things). Wisconsin – he’s from Milwaukee, he’s a golfer and … highly respects Jack Nicklaus for everything he’s done for the game of golf.
“Scott is a really good guy and really committed to making the course and facility first class. I think he’ll be a real good owner.”
Molitor could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, more commonly known as The Bull, opened in 2003 on property that had once been a prominent cattle-breeding business. The golf course, immediately adjacent to the celebrated golf courses at Kohler, earned a reputation for qualify golf in a scenic setting and found a place on number “best” lists but struggled financially through the years.
Its principal owner, David Bachmann Jr., staved off foreclosure in 2011 but was unable to avoid foreclosure last fall. In declaring bankruptcy in January, Bachmann released a statement attributing the action to a general downturn in the sports and hospitality industry, “the inability to charge sufficient fees to cover escalating expenses, and consecutive years of bad weather.’ ”
George, the trustee, said the sale to Molitor represents “a huge opportunity for the community to have a fresh start. It gives an opportunity for the community to still have this golf course. All the homeowners around the course (will be pleased) because they’ll still have a golf course in their backyard instead of a field.”
The sale also means employees will have a chance to continue working at The Bull and golfers who love the course will be able to keep playing there.
In the purchase offer, Molitor has also agreed to honor contracts for nearly two dozen weddings, parties and other events in 2020 that had been booked by the previous owners.
While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted so many aspects of daily life, George said the bankruptcy court has done a great job of continuing to operate and she expects the April 21 hearing to go as scheduled. The hearing will be conducted by telephone.
“Nothing’s a done deal until it’s a done deal,” she said, “(but) I think this is the best outcome. It hits the ball out of the park on so many levels.”