Exclusive Resorts Get Yet More Exclusive
Posted by freddysetiawan on October 14, 2008
FOR THE CLUB The boathouse at The Point in the Adirondacks. It will eventually be open only to members of Everlands.
WHEN the Rockefellers summered on Upper Saranac Lake starting in the 1920s, their private retreat was one of the so-called great camps built of logs and stone, in the classic Adirondack style. By the 1970s, the property, on about 135 acres, was run down, and in 1978 it was sold, restored and opened to the public as The Point, a year-round resort with boating and fishing in summer and cross-country skiing in winter.
With but 12 rooms and amenities that were available only to guests who paid a steep rate, it bespoke exclusivity from the start.
Now, The Point is poised to become more exclusive still. Along with several other luxury resorts in the United States and abroad, it has been bought by Everlands, a new organization that is taking them private, so they will eventually be open only to members.
Among them is Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Mont., which was built in 1926 and now has more than 50 miles of groomed cross-country terrain, for some of the best Nordic skiing in the country. Weekly rates in individual cabins start at $3,830 for two in winter, $5,565 in summer.
At The Point, where the notions of rustic and luxury are utterly compatible, guests pay rates that start at $2,300 a night, including all food, beverages, tax and tips.
It is likely to take as long as five or six years for Everlands to become fully subscribed with its total projected membership of 1,800 people, said Kenneth May, who became the chief executive of Everlands about a year ago. Until then, rooms at the properties it owns will still be available to outsiders. “We’re very patient,” he said.
The same goes for the other resorts on Everlands’ list. Bristol Bay Lodge in Alaska, the Oasis at Castle Hot Springs in Arizona and the Inn at Blueberry Hill on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The growing inventory also includes Lake Rotoroa Lodge in Nelson Lakes National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Some other resorts, including the Mangrove Cay Club on Andros Island in the Bahamas, and Hotel Endsleigh in Devon, England, are under contract or are about to be. Ultimately, Everlands expects to own more than 40 resorts, including several in Africa.
At present there are more than 50 members of Everlands, some of whom have taken advantage of a reduced one-time initiation fee for “founding members,” currently $625,000. The price will soon go to $1 million. Annual maintenance is $40,000 for members, but these dues will be deferred for several years for those who join now.
Everlands is not run on a standard time-sharing basis. The members are investors in the properties; they have access to them, free of charge, on a space-available basis, for a week at a time. For now, nonmembers can reserve vacations at the properties up to six months in advance. Family members and guests who accompany members are accommodated at a reduced rate.
If Everlands is not a time-share, it is also not a typical vacation club. The founders, Robert Burch and James Millership, both of whom have wide-ranging real estate interests, have made conservation an important component of Everlands. It is one of the reasons the properties the organization seeks to acquire are often remote, and likely to appeal to members with similar interests.
“The members are remarkable people who want authentic vacation experiences at extraordinary places,” Mr. May said.
But whether one wants to limit vacations to Everlands properties may determine the appeal of the organization. Some guests at The Point during a recent weekend said that considering the investment, they would feel obligated to use the group’s resorts, but that even with 40 or more of them, they would feel it was too limiting.
Everlands also plans to award a $1 million conservation prize every year to individuals or groups it will recognize for innovations in conserving nature. Its directors, people like the paleontologist Richard Leakey, are prominent environmentalists.
“It’s not just a fancy club for millionaires,” said John Heminway, a writer, conservationist and documentary film-maker who is a consultant for Everlands (his title is “explorer in residence”). “It’s about protecting the landscape.” He pointed out that by investing in the properties, especially in places like Africa, Everlands can keep them running in good times and bad, like during the turmoil in Kenya last January, when tourism dried up. The money is there even when the guests stay home.
At Lone Mountain Ranch, Bob and Vivian Schaap and his family, who owned it for more than 30 years, wanted to sell for some time, said Ennion Williams, the manager. “Bob had many offers over the years but he insisted on someone who will preserve the ranch from development,” Mr. Williams said. “The conservation initiative was crucial and that’s what appealed to Bob.”
Though the cabins will eventually be available only to members, and the number of accommodations is likely to decrease as the less-historic cabins are removed, the soaring lodgepole dining room will probably continue to accept outsiders. And the cross-country trail system, some of which is on National Forest Service land, must remain open to the public.
David Garrett, whose Garrett Hotel Group has owned The Point since 1986, said that initially he had no intention of selling. “They approached us and made us a very attractive offer,” he said. “And I felt they would be good stewards of the property, they would protect it.” The selling price was $33 million. Mr. Garrett’s company has a contract to continue to manage The Point for at least another year.
“Ultimately the place will be dedicated to their members, though they may allow outsiders based on availability,” he said. “Some of that policy has yet to be determined.”
Mr. May said the current financial turmoil does not appear to have had an impact on the club. “We signed two new members at the height of the crisis,” he said, referring to Sept. 30, after the original bailout bill was rejected in Washington. “We feel we offer more than just a luxury vacation. In difficult times people fall back on core values and family. We offer those values and welcome families.”
Though $14 million that Everlands counted on from Lehman Brothers, which had already contributed $41 million as a partner to help secure properties, will not be available, he said Everlands was looking for alternate financing from investors who might find the conservation angle especially attractive. And he added that the financial problems might actually help Everlands. “There may be properties that are attractive to us that will be available at a discount, that we can help,” he said.