Big names surface as suitors for Sea Island

The 13th hole at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

The 13th hole at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

Questions swirling about the potential next owner of Sea Island – the exclusive Georgia resort in financial distress – may finally get some answers.

Undermined by an aggressive expansion plan that was derailed by the recession, Sea Island has been forced to find a new owner to succeed Sea Island Co.’s CEO Bill Jones III, whose family has served as stewards of the resort since 1926. In a stunning reversal of fortune, Jones, who just six years ago garnered global attention for Sea Island as it hosted the Group of Eight summit of world leaders, likely will sell off the resort in pieces – its golf courses, residential properties and lodges possibly going to different bidders.

In January, company officials said they would hire an investment bank to review their strategic options, including a sale. Citing sources familiar with the situation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported that Goldman Sachs has identified the following as among the suitors:

Anschutz Entertainment Group: The Los Angeles-based company is a major owner and operator of sports venues and pro sports teams, including the Los Angeles Kings.

Starwood Capital Group: The investment firm, based in New York, has $16 billion in assets and owns Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the St. Regis, Westin, W and Sheraton brands. Barry Sternlicht, chief executive of Starwood Capital, reportedly covets Sea Island as a marquee resort property.

Huizenga Holdings: The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based real estate and investment conglomerate is led by its billionaire chairman H. Wayne Huizenga. His companies have included Waste Management, Blockbuster, AutoNation and Republic Services.

The Gary Player Group: Gary Player’s company recently created a billion-dollar investment fund, backed largely by Middle Eastern investors, to target “iconic resorts where there are existing hotel, residential, golf amenities that have been over-capitalized,” according to Marc Player, the group’s CEO.

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