Salamander expands Florida reach by adding 2 resorts

An aerial view of Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Sheila C. Johnson is the latest hospitality executive to try to profit from one of Bobby Ginn’s numerous failures.

Salamander Hotels & Resorts, the Middleburg, Va., hospitality company that Johnson founded in 2005, will assume management of Reunion Resort near Orlando, Fla., and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, on Florida’s northeast coast. Salamander also has taken an ownership stake in the resorts, according to Prem Devadas, the company’s president.

The resorts are owned by Lubert-Adler, L.P., a real estate equity firm. They originally were developed by Ginn, whose resort business grew quickly during the real estate boom and collapsed just as abruptly.

Devadas wouldn’t disclose the size of Salamander’s investment in Reunion and Hammock Beach, but said, “It is significantly enough that it aligns our interests (with the existing ownership’s), which is very different from a typical management (contract).”

Johnson and Devadas made the announcement at Reunion, in an event that was more pep rally than press conference. They were joined by Annika Sorenstam, whose golf academy is based at Reunion.

Along with Innisbrook Golf Resort, which Johnson acquired in 2007, Reunion and Hammock Beach give Salamander three major golf resorts along the 200-mile stretch of Interstate 4 from Tampa to Palm Coast. The three resorts are being marketed together as the Legends of Golf Trail, and there is a dedicated website for the properties (www.grandgolfresorts.com).

The three resorts have a total of 4,000 members, nine courses – four at Innisbrook, three at Reunion and two at Hammock Beach – three golf academies, three spas and 1,250 villas. 

The deal does not include Bella Collina, another former Ginn property near Orlando that recently has been co-marketed with Reunion Resort.

Devadas said Salamander will assess the resorts and look for ways to upgrade the facilities, but first they must be made profitable.

“We need to drive revenues here in all areas, not just filling rooms,” Devadas said. “We need not only more rounds on the golf courses, but we need to elevate the fees. We need to expand our food and beverage revenues. It is that success that will drive profitability and our ability to do new projects.” 

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