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May 21, 2008
VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much once again. Thank you for your attendance here today, in what is a very special day for everyone in the room and we're glad you're here with us to share the announcement.
I'm just going to hand it straight over to George O'Grady Chief Executive of The European Tour to kick matters off.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Welcome, again, everyone, to another day, another announcement. Many in the roomy I think travelled with us to Dubai last November to attend the launch of The Race to Dubai and we appreciate not everybody could, so I think today gives us the chance to put faces to names, or the other way around, with the two key people who are now very significant partners of The European Tour in The Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship.
I think on my left, Alan Rogers, who is the Group Chief Executive of Leisurecorp and on my right, David Spencer, Chief Executive Officer - Golf.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, they are both very important and they are both very real, and I think they are very approachable. And a lot of their team are here today, as well, who will be working on the development stages.
I mentioned last night in the Tour's dinner that this is about actually improving the running of The European Tour, strengthening our business operation, and helping to take us steadily into this coming century.
I think one visible aspect is that their sponsorship of the Physiotherapy Unit which is on the Tour, and I think you heard from Nick Faldo yesterday say just how important that is to all Members of The European Tour, and the power to work out; it's given us the confidence to recruit additional physiotherapists, more specialists, and enter into the agreement that we have with Weybridge Diagnostic Centre that Nick Faldo referred to.
I think today is one particular announcement which shows the seriousness of this partnership and the seriousness of our intention together when Leisurecorp, as they will tell you, have acquired Turnberry. I think that in some of the remarks I made in Dubai about this being the beginning; this is just one more evidence of where we intending to go in the future.
And with that, I'd like to introduce Alan to you to explain the rationale behind the announcement today.
ALAN ROGERS: Thank you, George. Before I start on Turnberry, I would like to echo a few of George's words.
First, David has been in the golf industry a long time. I'm a newcomer to it, and the first meeting that actually I had with George and Keith was last summer. And then we came to our agreement and as some of you were actually in Dubai in November when we launched, both the Dubai World Championship and The Race to Dubai. That was, you know, the starting point for our relationship, our alliance, and it was a properly good document and everything else, but as you know, those things are a little dry.
I think what's interesting is that over the past few months, and it's a relatively short period, how quickly our relationships, the two entities, we've bonded, and working on a whole series of different initiatives and projects which are all very exciting I think for golf and certainly for Leisurecorp.
On a personal note, I'd like to specifically thank George and Keith for everything they have done. This is not only about the things that we do together, but I've come actually to value very highly George's -- not only his knowledge, but his advice and good counsel, and I'd like to thank you for that. It's something that I being a newcomer to the golf business, although Leisurecorp has a lot of other interests outside golf, value highly, and I think it's indicative of our relationship, that we have that open dialogue and that we are able to bounce ideas off each other and that we can turn to you for advice, so thank you.
I'll tell you just a little bit, for those of you that don't know about Leisurecorp who we are. We were established in 2006, which in Dubai terms is probably quite a long time ago, to identify, acquire and develop leisure and sports and lifestyle-related investments.
We are part of Dubai World, which is owned by the Dubai government, so we are at the heart of everything that goes on in Dubai. We have as our core asset, Jumeirah Golf Estates, which I think many of you know about already, and David will explain about if anybody has any questions.
We have already acquired last year the Pearl Valley Estates in the Cape Winelands in South Africa, an extraordinarily beautiful property, which is large with a lot of potential for a second course and additional development.
Leisurecorp has two basic core entities. The first is the golf business, and the second is very active; we have incredibly enthusiastic and talented team, not only in development but in marketing and everything else to do with golf. That's sort of at the heart of who we are, but we also will spread our wings into other investments in the sports and leisure field.
We are the largest shareholder, for example, in Island Global Yachting, which is the premiere developer, owner and manager of marinas globally. Particularly strong in the Caribbean, and now have mirrored that in the eastern Mediterranean, in Turkey, Greece and Croatia and will be responsible for the building of 40,000 berths in Dubai over the next ten years.
We are active with the related companies in Snowmass in Colorado and Aspen and the redevelopment of that $1.5 billion project, and we have additional to that various other shareholdings in other private-equity-related leisure activities.
We are here today actually to talk about an acquisition that is now in the works for us, extremely exciting, which is the acquisition of Turnberry in Scotland. I believe you all have details in your press kits, so I won't actually go into the details. I'm sure the questions and answers that you'll be seeking are the important part of it.
What it does do for us is actually give us an extraordinary -- I was going to say handicap; actually it's a hat trick, which is that next year in 2009, Leisurecorp will host the oldest tournament in golf, The Open at Turnberry; the second oldest, which is the South African Open at Pearl Valley and then the newest and richest, which is the Dubai World Championship, the culmination of The Race to Dubai, which will take place in November 2009.
So we certainly have our hands full in making certain that all those come to fruition in the way that I think all of you and the world would expect. We're looking forward to working on all those.
Turnberry, I actually first went there as a child and have very fond memories of it, and I haven't been back for like 30 years when it became available on the market. Both David and I said, well, as soon as it became available, you know, this is something that absolutely fits the Leisurecorp image, portfolio and also the opportunities that exist there for development and for making certain that it becomes not only the premiere, but also the most sought-after resort, golf resort not only in the U.K. but also in Europe.
We were there this week meeting with architects and designers to start the refurbishment programme. And even as a sort of non-golfer, trying, just looking out over the Ailsa Course to the lighthouse with Ailsa in the background and Arran and Kintyre, it's just one of the most glorious, most beautiful spots in the world, and it's just magical and we're extremely delighted and proud to add it to our portfolio and we hope that we will be the good and careful guardians of it and take it to the next stage.
David, do you want to add anything?
DAVID SPENCER: I think this is a very special milestone, also, in the history of Dubai and under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed as Dubai spreads its brand throughout the world, in the golf world, acquiring Turnberry and having The European Tour with us side-by-side during these negotiations also outlines the depth and the level of the relationship that we have developed with The European Tour.
You know, from a special point of view, we have Mr. Finchem and Mr. Moorhouse in the audience today, and we are the greatest admirers of the US Tour and what the US Tour have done for the world of golf and continue to do. You've certainly raised the bar, and a city like Dubai looks to great organisations like yours with absolute admiration. And I think you have helped us with our partners at The European Tour raise the bar, and this is another stepping stone for Leisurecorp, for The European Tour as it bursts into the 21st century.
So we are going to especially now for any questions and answers. We're happy to discuss the acquisition that we have agreed with star wood at Turnberry we can talk about Jumeirah Golf Estates, Pearl Valley or any of the spa treatments I've had recently, whatever you'd like.
So thank you for coming today and we look forward to seeing you in 2009 at one of our venues.
Q. David, the purchase price has been announced as Â£55 million. What are you going to do to add shareholder value to this new asset of Leisurecorp?
DAVID SPENCER: Well, you know, I think when we looked at Turnberry and what it stands for, our first stage is that we will be undertaking a full redevelopment of the hotel, together working closely with the South Ayrshire Council, and of course historic Scotland. This is a magnificent James Miller building that holds a very, very special part in the history of Scotland, and, of course, the history of golf.
We'll be working with the various architects who we'll be announcing shortly, together with Starwood and have the public spaces and the main building and the main rooms ready to welcome the world's greatest golfers, and great golf crowds to Turnberry in July 2009.
Q. I was going to say, until recently Colin Montgomerie was always listed as representing the Turnberry Golf Resort; I believe that stopped. I haven't seen his name recently in that connection, do you have any intention of reviving any sort of concept like that?
DAVID SPENCER: Well, you know, Colin Montgomerie has not only been a great supporter and advocate of The European Tour, but also Dubai with the development of the Montgomerie Golf Course at Emirates Hills. Colin has a golf academy at Turnberry.
And this morning, once this agreement had been finalized and public, we will be extending Colin's involvement with Turnberry for a further three years.
ALAN ROGERS: One point actually I think I would add to your question about Turnberry, and that is from our perspective, I think if you look at it, it ticks almost every box and will actually be a difficult deal to replicate.
It's not only, you know, an icon in the golf world. It has, when you're asking about upside, it has the potential in terms of the hotel and other amenities, sports and things; obviously as David said, which we'll do in conjunction with the South Ayrshire Council.
There are a lot of opportunities I think to make it not only the premiere golf destination, but also a report which has other activities which will encourage people to stay there.
South Ayrshire Council is the only council that hosts two Open venues with Troon and Turnberry. They are very keen on promoting tourism in the area. So we are looking forward to working with them in developing a plan for Turnberry.
Q. Just wondered, have you been in touch with the R&A and just wanted to know what they thought and what assurance you can give them that you know traditions of their tournament will be preserved?
DAVID SPENCER: Yes, throughout the process of our agreement with Starwood to acquire Turnberry. We had spoken to the R&A at each of the levels of the negotiations. And again last night at the fantastic Tour dinner here at Wentworth, we spoke with Mr. Dawson of the R&A, and I think he's very supportive of the acquisition. We understand the game of golf. We have a great passion for the game of golf, and we respect its traditions. I think the R&A are very confident that we're a worthy and respectful custodian of an Open venue.
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think it speaks volumes that the R&A have happily lent us The Open Trophy for the day, which would show the support all the way around we have.
ALAN ROGERS: There's actually a challenge, obviously in trying to get some work done by next year. So we will be very careful in our programming, only doing that which is achievable. It would obviously be nice to do more, but we want to make certain that what we do is done, done to a high standard and completed in plenty of time before The Open.
Q. George, I don't know if you touched on this, I wasn't able to get in right at the start, but given the links that are here obviously with The European Tour, what's the likelihood of Turnberry potentially coming a regular fixture on the International Schedule of The European Tour with some kind of tournament?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think it's too good of a golf course not to be played when the owners want something to be played there.
I did say, I don't know if you were here at the beginning; when we made the announcement the in Dubai at the Burj Al Arab Hotel, we said this was the beginning. I think this is the next visible entity of somebody who is serious. I think there are other announcements in the pipeline, which I think will answer that question.
Q. I'm just wondering, do you have any surprises for us in terms of what you have in mind for Turnberry like dealing with the lighthouse which has always been rather underplayed.
DAVID SPENCER: I think we were talking this morning, in our opinion, and it's somewhat biased now, of course; we think that the lighthouse at Turnberry could be one of the most iconic pieces of our golf course architecture in the world.
So together with the South Ayrshire Council and the people of the area, we are looking at various programmes to introduce the lighthouse as more of a usable component at Turnberry. But of course, it's such an historic building, and again, we'd be doing that with South Ayrshire and with Starwood, and, of course, The European Tour.
Might be a nice place to meet, George, occasionally, under at the lighthouse. Think how romantic.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Do you think I should live there, do you; far enough away?
ALAN ROGERS: There was thought of a bridal suite.
It's a working lighthouse, so we have to be conscious of that, as well.
Q. Do you have any plans for the courses themselves?
DAVID SPENCER: Well, I think our foremost focus is on the Ailsa Course and preparing it to be a very, very worthy host venue for The Open Championship.
We take that responsibility very deeply. As we get past The Open Championship, we will look at further applications of some of the other areas in the portfolio that we have bought, the land portfolio that we have bought. It's quite a sizable piece of land, and we look forward to Turnberry being seen as one of the greatest multi-course destinations in Europe, the middle east and Africa, if not the world.
Q. In the past, it seems to be a difficult course because of the roads in and accommodation for people wanting to go to the Open; what changes have happened that have made your mind up that this was a good place to go?
DAVID SPENCER: I think one of the issues was the entry and exit to actually get to the region of where the course is; that has been addressed. It was one of the issues of bringing The Open Championship there. There's a new piece of road that allows easier and more timely access to Turnberry. That piece of road has been finished and is working, and the accommodation throughout the area is beginning to expand.
I mean, we are seeing in South Ayrshire some interesting now developments taking place. One that I went to the other night called Souter Johnnie's, which has the same owner as the Brigadoon House Hotel.
So I think this is such a lovely area for tourism, golf, food experiences, etc., that with a refurbishment to the Turnberry Hotel, we'll see tourism attracted, more tourism attracted to the area.
Q. I was going to ask you if it's your ambition that The Open be held at Turnberry more than it has in the past 15 years? Would you like to see it become a more regular venue for The Open?
DAVID SPENCER: Well, I think that's a decision for the R&A, and I think that our first goal is to stage an Open Championship in 2009 that is memorable with improved facilities for the crowds, for the golfers that are coming there.
So obviously our goal is to see Turnberry as a permanent fixture on The Open rota, but of course that's a decision for the R&A, and we have to show them that we are worthy custodians of this great piece of golfing history.
SCOTT CROCKETT: I'd like to thank the three gentlemen for their attendance today, thank you and good luck for the future.
End of FastScripts