‘Race’ ends for Leisurecorp’s Spencer

David Spencer, the architect behind Leisurecorp’s partnership with the PGA European Tour and the season-ending “Race to Dubai,’’ is out as chief executive of the high-end development company.

David Spencer, the architect behind Leisurecorp’s partnership with the PGA European Tour and the season-ending “Race to Dubai,’’ is out as chief executive of the high-end development company.

Spencer, the public face of Leisurecorp’s golf activities, became redundant after parent company Nakheel, a real-estate developer in the United Arab Emirates, assumed the day-to-day running of Leisurecorp. Spencer, an Australian, is on medical leave. According to a story in the UAE-based newspaper The National, he will continue in a consulting role through the British Open in July and the Dubai World Championship in November. Spencer’s role is thought to have been reduced to 10 hours per week.

The move, plus the suspension of Leisurecorp’s flagship development Jumeirah Estates in Dubai, throws into question the longterm future of the European Tour’s “Race to Dubai.’’ Tour officials reached by Golfweek would not comment, deferring to a Nakheel statement.

Nakheel said its commitment to golf would continue.

“While the real estate activities of Leisurecorp are part of Dubai World’s current consolidation, Leisurecorp’s golf business activities continue as usual,’’ Nakheel said in a statement. “Due to ongoing health reasons, David Spencer is currently on medical leave although he continues to be closely involved with Leisurecorp’s golf activities.’’

Leisurecorp has pledged $178 million to the European Tour over the next five years. The money is for the naming rights to the Order of Merit and the Dubai World Championship, the Tour’s season finale held on the Greg Norman-designed Earth course.

The top 60 players on the European Tour’s money list, the “Race to Dubai,” will compete each year for a $10 million prize fund, with a further $10 million bonus pool to the top 15 on the Race to Dubai.

The extra $78 million consists of a treasure chest available to the European Tour.

Leisurecorp also owns Turnberry, site of this year’s British Open, and is backing the European Open at The London Club on May 28-31.

Jumeirah Estates has postponed construction of two of four planned courses, citing the ongoing economic downturn.

The Earth was the first course to be completed. A second Norman-designed course, the Fire, also has been finished. The Wind and the Water courses are on hold.

“The focus for us this year has been to complete the two courses which are capable of staging the Dubai World Championship, and we have achieved that,” Leisurecorp marketing director Colin Smith told The National.

“We will move on from there when the market is right,’’ Smith said. “It is too early to say at the moment when that will be. We will see where the world is in a few months’ time. It’s normal for people all around the world to re-evaluate projects because of the financial climate. And we are doing exactly that.”

The European Tour would not comment when contacted by Golfweek, deferring to Nakheel’s official statement. R&A chief executive Peter Dawson and other members of his team could not be reached.

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