Was the demise of Ben Eoin Golf Limited caused by the lack of a business-ownership culture among investors, and will the Cape Breton Ski Club fail due to the same flaw?
Just when I thought there were no sharks in the Bras D’ Or Lakes, there has been a sighting of the worst type - the early-stage Capitalist Oppression Sharks at the Cape Breton Ski Club AGM held at The Ben Eoin Marina on June 27, 2019. Oppression Sharks are known best for their ability to screw others out of business assets, chisel them, hurt them, and enjoy watching them squeal.
One of the great challenges of sports facilities owned by members is that they want to play the game or sport, and not run the actual business of the sport. Ben Eoin Golf Limited(Golf) had a dynamic team of investors who saw their dream come true in the grand opening of a new 18-hole golf course that would carry itself in operational profit and growth. However, within a short time, most were focused too much on playing golf and not acting like business owners of a new venture that requires significant effort to get established.
There is an old golf saying, “if you are scoring 125 or more in golf you have no business playing golf, and if you are scoring in the 70s, you have no business.”
The venture soon became unsustainable as more money was going out than coming in, which was the smell of blood in the water to the early-stage Capitalist Oppression Sharks. With limited research, over 75% of the investors decided they just wanted to play golf, and gave up the ownership responsibility they really did not expect was part of the purchase.
The Golf saga reminds me of the January 21, 2019 article in Bloomberg Businessweek by John Paul Newport, Weekend at Bob’s, a story about Go Daddy Inc. owner, Bob Parsons. Bob purchased a down-on-its-luck golf course in Arizona for pennies on the dollar, and transformed it into a paradise for golf-addicted billionaires, where for a meagre $17,500 US, they could buy a three-day Xperience (includes a set of free PXG golf clubs worth $6,000). One of the first things Parsons did was to get rid of local members who didn't fit into his elitist vision for the club’s future.
The Cape Breton Ski Club was started as a Society for the promotion of skiing in the Ben Eoin area, with both financial capital and social capital in the form of sweat equity. Trails were cut by hand for decades, repairs and enhancements done with a combination of paid help, professional in-kind contributions, volunteer efforts by many for the benefit of the entire Club. Over time, less and less social capital was utilized, and the Oppression Sharks now think that the majority of members just want to ski and leave the work to the few.
The Oppression Sharks will soon spin a narrative that Ski is being held back due to lack of capital, and a much better time can be had by skiers if they let someone else own and operate the facility.
Let’s get something straight: Season pass holders are Members, Members are Owners, and Owners have the responsibility to see that the Ski Club flourishes. As the old Cape Breton promoters of social enterprises preached, let us be “The Authors of Our Own Destiny.”
Ski needs to consult with its owner-members on how we can make a fair profit to enhance the Ski Ben Eoin experience for all the new visitors our neighbours will be bringing to the area, and bring back the culture of member-ownership to this facility.
Scott Mac Lean,
Member, Cape Breton Ski Club