Monday, January 24, 2011

Trump/Engineers CC Deal Off the Table

The "losers" have gotten their wish, at least for now.

Donald Trump has informed Engineers Country Club that his proposal to take over the Roslyn Harbor, N.Y., club, site of the 1919 PGA Championship, is off the table. In a letter to Engineers' chairman of the board, Robert Scheinman—a copy of which was obtained by this blog—the real estate developer said that "infighting among your members" influenced the decision.

To "elevate the Engineers Country Club to a Trump standard, which is the highest standard in golf, I would want unanimity among the members and not the divisiveness that permeates the Club at present," Trump wrote.

That may be a rare case of understatement from the outspoken mogul, who was quoted calling Engineers members opposed to a Trump deal "losers" in a January 14 New York Post "Page Six" item. The proposed offer to turn Engineers CC into Trump National – Long Island led to the formation of an anti-Trump group, the Association for a Better Engineers (ABE), whose anonymous members threatened to sue the club and its board members if the proposal were brought to a full membership vote. On January 19, a new group of at least 16 Engineers members, which dubbed itself "LTP," for "Let Them Pay," sent a letter to the Engineers board voicing its support for bringing Trump's proposal to a vote. This blog obtained a copy of that letter as well.

"We believe that ABE has sought to bring wrongful pressure to bear by going to the press with misleading statements for the sole purpose of scaring off a valuable financial opportunity," wrote Sid Schwartzapfel, "and if that is proven to be the case, we intend to hold ABE and its members...liable for any assessments which are imposed as a result of this small group's selfish actions."

Such internal strife may well have influenced the Trump Organization's decision to walk away from the bargaining table, but there were also financial considerations at work. Trump's letter to Scheinman noted that, "The Trump Organization has been asked to guarantee unknown and open-ended liabilities --- something which, because of the uncertainties, we cannot agree to do."

A spokesman for the Trump Organization declined comment.

One veteran member—who claims not to be affiliated with either ABE or LTP—said he doubted that LTP would, or could, follow through on any action against ABE members. Absent Trump and Engineers returning to the negotiating table (a possibility that should not be discounted), the member said he expects a five-figure assessment this year. Asked if he thought the mood at the club would be tense when the new season begins, the member demurred.

"When the sun is shining and people are out playing golf, these things have a way of being put to the side," the member said. "That said, the entire thing has been a mess."


  1. Great stuff...

    I posted something about it your story here:

  2. Evan,
    I am a 21 year old, a scratch golfer and have been a member at Engineers Country Club for 4 years. I am also currently a Division 1 golfer and it is my job to practice there every day. I've been in the club championship every year since I've been there aside from this year due to a golf course which was in a condition so bad, it was embarrassing. It's sad how this whole situation went down. I was really looking forward to the opportunity to be associated with such a strong brand as Donald Trump. The old men associated with the "ABE" group are cowards for hiding behind their own anonymous lawsuit. Mainly however, I blame the board of directors for having the mental capacity of 5 year olds in their inability to unite the club and have an honest discussion before any lawsuits were necessary. The only reason we were put in the position to consider this deal is because of the boards inability to manage finances to any reasonable extent. Because of the new situation, dues must subsequently rise and all new members that came in the same year I did will leave and the club will be forced into bankruptcy. It saddens me that nobody at the club realizes that new members are vital to its overall growth.
    Due to this embarrassing situation I will be forced to leave at the end of the year as well. Members are inherently selfish and don't understand the idea of maintaining a positive environment and improving the brand in which they are associated with. Losing good golfers is never a good place to start if you want to maintain or build brand recognition. Playing in MGA events and having that brand name, country club, whatever you choose to call it, associated with those golfers are essential to the recognition of clubs as successful. Members spend hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing in a PGA Professional to represent their club in tournaments and bring success to their club. However, having members do exactly that same thing is just as vital as buying a good playing professional. One day when all the respectable members are gone from Engineers, and the club becomes another housing development, people will look back and realize what a great golf course Engineers once was, and how a few inept people brought down a legacy.

  3. I would just like to clarify that my previous comment was based on opinion. I have no knowledge of any finances associated with Engineers Country Club and am simply speaking from a point of observation. There is no evidence at this point that the club will actually go bankrupt or become a housing development at any point. While losing members is a real issue at this time and it is also well known that the health of the club is not at its finest, I cannot say with any confidence that bankruptcy is imminent. I wrote it to merely serve a purpose of showing that some irresponsible actions taken by a group of members has the capability to have serious ramifications if they are not careful and events currently taking place do not change. Golf is my life and I love Engineers C.C. I hope going forward the members can resolve their issues and bring back what was once a place in which members had pride in.