Aquilini interest gives Falls golf course new life

The Aquilini Investment Group, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, is stepping in to save the Falls Golf Resort in Chilliwack.

The Aquilini Investment Group

The Aquilini Investment Group, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, is stepping in to save the Falls Golf Resort in Chilliwack.

The hillside golf resort has been floundering since early 2011 when Rick Wellsby, president of Blackburn Developments Ltd., filed for bankruptcy protection as a $75-million debt threatened to swallow up the resort.

A court-appointed monitor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, started looking for potential buyers, but that process apparently failed when a “vulture fund” called Streetwise Capital Partners based in Toronto acquired enough proxy votes from creditors to foil a $15-million bid by Pinnacle Land Developments Inc. to buy the resort.

Michael Thornton, Silver Falls Development Inc. president, said as his company Landus Development Group was the resort’s single largest creditor, he decided to foreclose and join Aquilini in a “team effort” to save the golf course.

“The course was deteriorating, so we enacted our right … we foreclosed,” Thornton said Wednesday.

“If I hadn’t foreclosed, and Aquilini hadn’t come in, we would have lost that golf course,” he added.

Thornton said an “order absolute” was made last Friday and property title was transferred to a subsidiary of the Aquilini Group.

Aquilini officials did not return an interview request before Wednesday’s deadline, but Thornton said he believes the company plans to have the golf course “up and running” in the next month or two.

The health of the golf course is seen as key to surrounding property values of residents who bought into the resort and expected it to continue as a premiere golf destination.

Thornton said he is confident Aquilini will be more interested in maintaining the resort than the “vulture” companies.

“I really didn’t want to have our bones picked clean,” he said.

“As a relatively small business owner, it made sense to me to bring on (Aquilini) who could develop the resort,” he said.

In addition to owning the Canucks hockey team, Aquilini owns two golf courses in Pitt Meadows and holds the Pizza Hut franchise in B.C.

“Really, they’re big in a lot of things,” Thornton said. “We feel they’re the best owner/operator for the whole community.”