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Brandywine Country Club sold to real estate developer - News Journal

Brandywine Country Club sold to real estate developer
Maureen Milford and Jeff Montgomery The News Journal 1/18/12

Real estate developer Louis Capano has signed an agreement to buy the 111-acre Brandywine Country Club property, one of the last large open spaces remaining in northern Delaware's Brandywine Hundred.

Louis Capano III said his company, which signed the agreement with the club's board on Friday, has no immediate plans for the property located between Concord Pike (U.S. 202) and Shipley Road, just south of Concord Mall. The club, which has faced significant financial difficulties in recent years, will lease back the property for $1 a year for three years, Capano said. He declined to give the sale price but said settlement should be held in about 30 days.

"It's choice land. It's obviously why we bought it," Capano said. "We have plenty of time to look at all our options."

Harry Pedrick, president of the club's board of governors, did not return phone calls or emails asking for comment. Paul Repko, who is listed on the club's website as a member of the board, said he had no comment. Members were made aware of the impending sale and voted on it in December, according to a club member who asked not to be named. Capano confirmed the members were aware of the sale.

Charles Landry, land use chair of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, said the civic group has monitored the property over the years and has worried that "something might happen to it."

"This is going to be huge, there's no doubt about it. You can bet we're going to be right in the middle of it. Our concern is that whatever is done, will [Capano] listen to the needs of the community," Landry said.

Capano and former board members said the club had been hard hit by the economy and had been struggling financially for years. Brandywine is not alone. 
Private country clubs throughout the country have been battling to keep members during the long economic slump. Not only have they faced increased competition from other leisure-time outlets, but changes in family lifestyles have affected the willingness of consumers to join clubs.

In 2009, the economy was the number one factor in Brandywine's offering tee times to the public during the week. The club took the step after membership decreased 20 percent in the first month of the year.

"They were losing money rapidly," Capano said.

The club was in a so-called "workout" of its loans with M&T Bank, Capano said. The bank had to approve the sale, he said.

According to public records, more than $4.7 million in mortgages were assigned to M&T in September. The property has $166,540 in federal tax liens. In addition, the Delaware Department of Labor won a judgment against the club for $25,373.93 in November, which followed a $30,535 judgment in March.

Capano said his company gave the club a nonrefundable deposit on Friday that "clears up all their debt."

The sale is the second time the Brandywine Country Club has done business with Louis Capano. In 1984, the club voted to sell 25 acres along Concord Pike to Capano for $3 million. Capano developed the Concord Square shopping center just north of Talleyville.

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