15 Sep Wentworth golf club sold to Beijing-based Reignwood for £135m
The new Chinese owners of the prestigious Wentworth golf club have promised to preserve the famous Surrey course’s “unique culture” as it becomes the latest British prize to be added to Beijing’s expanding trophy cabinet.
The course, home to the annual PGA tournament, has been sold by restaurant entrepreneur Richard Caring to Beijing-based Reignwood Investments for £135m.
“Wentworth is a key strategic acquisition for our rapidly growing luxury lifestyle division,” said Dr Chanchai Ruayrungruang, who founded the group behind China’s first private golf club. He said Reignwood would draw on the club’s “exceptional expertise” to inform its other golf operations across Asia and preserve its unique culture. “Reignwood has a long history in golf development and a profound respect for excellence,” he said.
With its famous 18th century neo-gothic clubhouse and strict etiquette rules – no tracksuits, leggings or baseball caps the wrong way round can be worn on its fairways – amateur golfers lust to play its manicured fairways: a round on its sought-after West Course will set you back £360. Indeed the pull of its three championship courses has, over the years, encouraged professional and celebrity golfers ranging from Nick Faldo and Ernie Els to Sir Bruce Forsyth to purchase multimillion-pound homes in neighbouring Virginia Water.
Caring, a keen golfer and friend of Sir Philip Green, said he had been inundated with offers to buy the club during the nine years it had been in his possession but had held out for the right one. “I have always looked for an owner with integrity… an understanding of the special place it holds in so many people’s hearts; an owner who wants to develop the Club ever further, improving on what is already a masterpiece.” Reignwood was that partner, he said, with the deal resulting in a small profit for the businessman, whose golfing is reported to have been curtailed by a shoulder injury. Caring, who owns the Ivy restaurant and Annabel’s nightclub in London, paid £130m for the club in 2004.
In recent years Chinese investors have amassed a diverse portfolio of UK investments, ranging from stakes in Heathrow airport and Thames Water to breakfast cereal maker Weetabix. The trend continued over the summer when Chinese private equity group Hony Capital snapped up restaurant chain PizzaExpress for £900m.
It is not only a British phenomenon: Fosun, China’s largest privately held conglomerate, renewed its battle for control of French holiday group Club Med on Friday with a €22 a share offer that trumps the one on the table from Italian investor Andrea Bonomi and values the company at €839m.
The Wentworth investment was welcomed by chancellor George Osborne, who said the deal demonstrated the growing relationship between the UK and China. “Strengthening co-operation between Britain and China is not only good for China, but good for UK jobs and investment too, which is why it’s a key part of our long-term economic plan,” he said.