This article was written by Jeremy Deutsch of Kamloops This Week on June 14th, 2011.
As the future of Tobiano Resort is sorted out after falling into receivership last week, a picture of what it was like behind the scenes at the resort is emerging.
Dave Behnsen was the guest-services manager at Tobiano until recently and recalled how staff cuts last season hurt employee morale at the golf course. He said the “bare bones” staff levels led to him working 55 hours a week without any thanks from Michael Grenier, the head of the Tobiano development. “Not once did Mike come to me and say I really appreciate the extra effort,” Behnsen told KTW.
He believes a change in ownership will be well-received by employees and ultimately be good for the future of the resort. “I think it’s a great thing and the future of Tobiano is bright,” Behnsen said, adding the golf course is too good not to succeed.
Word of the resort’s financial woes broke on Monday, June 13, after the real-estate side of the resort and golf course were ordered into receivership by the B.C. Supreme Court on June 9.
Pagebrook Inc. and Kamlands Holdings Ltd., which are both companies owned by Grenier, owe the Bank of Montreal debts totaling roughly $26 million.
The Bowra Group, which also took control of the troubled Mission Hill development in Kamloops last year, has been appointed receiver of Tobiano.
Grenier wouldn’t speculate on his future with the resort, but told KTW he was proud of what the development has accomplished — especially the golf course — in the three years since it opened. “I think it’s the finest resort project in Western Canada,” he said, specifically noting the hard work done by employees at the development.
Though the golf course has received several accolades in its short history, Grenier couldn’t make a go of the resort.
The developer blames two factors for Tobiano’s financial situation: The global economic downturn and the resort’s failure to secure funding for its planned marina.
The banks passed on financing the marina, while a pair of applications to the federal and provincial governments for grant funding was rejected. “They did not allow us to advance the marina, which would have been the next logical step in this successful project,” Grenier said.
Despite the financial turmoil, it’s expected to be business as usual for the golf course and residents living at Tobiano. Douglas Chivers, a representative with the Bowra Group, said the company intends to continue to operate the resort and golf course. “It’s in no way shut down,” he said.
Though Chivers couldn’t give specific details on the future of Tobiano, noting the process is still in its early stages, he said the receiver could sell the resort to a new owner as a whole or sell individual lots. “There’s a lot of options and possibilities,” he said.
Chivers noted it’s the court-ordered receiver’s role to take possession of the assets in an effort to operate, assess and recover those assets to repay creditors. He also pointed out the resort isn’t technically in bankruptcy, noting the court appointment was facilitated by the application of its secured creditors.
Bankruptcy involves a different set of laws.
As the court-appointed receiver works out the resort’s financial troubles, the local tourism industry is pulling for the golf course to succeed.
Tourism Kamloops CEO Lee Morris was surprised to learn the resort was in financial trouble, but is pleased to hear the golf course will remain open. She said Tobiano is very important to the overall golf product in Kamloops, noting the resort has been a factor in getting consumers to come to the area. “I think it really helped take us to the next level as a golf destination,” she said.