Business / Economy

Legal questions remain after sale of Ridgemark

Golf course development is the latest acquisition of John Wynn, who has a history of buying downtrodden properties

Even though JMK Golf LLC has announced that after nearly two years of contentions wrangling with the Ridgemark Homeowners' Association that it has finally sold Ridgemark Golf & Country Club, there may be more than a few legal wrinkles to iron out for the deal to be complete.

In particular is the association’s lawsuit, filed April 2014 against JMK to determine who owns the roads in the community, and JMK’s counter-suit for $50 million, much of which has been determined to have no merit, according to Bradley Matteoni, a partner at O’Laughlin, Heichtman, Matteoni, which represents the homeowner association.

“In my opinion, the homeowners own the roads, so any development that goes on out there would have to show that it has buy-in from the homeowners,” said Supervisor Jerry Muenzer. “Whoever owns the golf course has the right to use the roads for the golf course operation, but they would need the homeowners’ permission to do a development.”

Alex Kheriotis, president of JMK Golf LLC, told BenitoLink back in February: "If they (the homeowners' association) don't want to cooperate with us to re-establish property value in a development that is mutually beneficial, then we're just probably going to shut down and develop it five, 10, 15 years down the road."

As of Aug. 10, that is apparently not an issue as Angels Company LLC, of which a John Wynn is apparently a partner, purchased the property, according to Matteoni.  

Matteoni said it’s still unclear, however, what is to become of the lawsuits.

“With the $50 million lawsuit against the homeowner’s association, the court has previously said JMK didn’t plead enough facts to even bring such a claim and gave them the right to amend the complaint,” she said. “They have not filed an amended complaint. So the status of that is unclear. With the new owner (Wynn), trying to finalize the settlement agreement would make everything go away."

Matteoni said that Wynn wants to settle because the homeowners’ portion of the lawsuit stated that he can’t use the roads, other than for the golf course. So, that lawsuit still exists.

“We’re trying to find a way to make the community better and resolve all of our issues and move forward with a business relationship with the new owner,” she said. “That’s our hope and I hope we’re going to be able to succeed.”

She explained that it’s her understanding that Wynn was assigned JMK’s rights in that lawsuit.

“His company would have to become a party to the lawsuit and how that would sort out I’m not really sure,” she said. “But the expectation is we’ll be able to resolve that and we won’t have to cross that bridge.”

As for what Wynn wants, that’s anyone’s guess. Calls to his lawyer were not returned and Matteoni described Wynn as a man who shuns the spotlight.

But Wynn does have a history of buying distressed golf courses and other large properties that have had mixed success.

In 2005, Wynn, described as a San Francisco area entrepreneur in a Honolulu Advertiser article, bought the Hawaii Country Club, which the paper said was a “shabby 18-hole public golf course,” for about $4.2 million. Wynn, who heads Imperial Investment & Development, based in Milpitas, planned to “spruce it up” by upgrading the course, restaurant and clubhouse to return the operation to profitability. The broker for the deal said it was a “turnaround opportunity” for Wynn.

Nine years later, it would seem that the "sprucing up" had garnered mixed reviews, if comments left on Yelp are any indication. While there are a few good reviews—mostly about the restaurant—many are less than complementary. 

Wynn, who reportedly changed his name from Nguyen, is associated with more than a half-dozen companies. Imperial Investments & Development Inc., was incorporated in 2003. The other companies include: 5555 Auto Mall LLC, Ayala Garden Homes Corporation, Sakura Financial Group, Inc., and Pacislatino Villages, Inc. All six companies are located in Milpitas in the same strip mall and none appear to have working phone numbers, according to directory assistance.

In 2007, Wynn was the developer of a $200 million construction project called, The Globe, in Fremont. It was supposed to include ethnic stores, restaurants and a supermarket that would reflect the cultural flavors from around the world, according to an article.

"With restaurants and upscale shopping, it could be like (Disney World's) Epcot Center," Mayor Bob Wasserman said at the time.

The Globe was also slated to include a 15,000-square-foot theater, outdoor plaza, a performing area and more than 2,000 parking spaces.

In the same article, Vice Mayor Bob Wieckowski praised Wynn for revitalizing “a beat-up piece of property.”

Two years later, an Inside Bay Area news story reported that the entire project was in default, to the tune of $13.2 million, and was on the verge of foreclosure. And across the street, another Wynn project was also in default for $18 million. Apparently bad timing and the economic downturn of 2009 brought both projects crashing down. Wynn and his partners had reportedly paid $30 million for the site in 2005, according to the article.

What looked good on paper turned out to be a lot harder to execute, said one expert in the same article.

Meanwhile, Wynn appears to still be in the game, attempting to revitalize downtrodden properties, with Ridgemark being his latest effort.

“I don’t know of anything officially about the sale, but I met Mr. Wynn and he wants to work with the homeowners' association,” Muenzer said. “If that could come about it would be a good thing.”

But, then again, there are still those two lawsuits.

“What Mr. Wynn wants is the right to do some development on that golf course,” Matteoni said. “We’ve been in negotiations to see how we could work something out where he could develop certain portions and at the same time respect the character of the neighborhood, which is important to the value of the community and any potential homes there. We’ve been trying to compromise so both sides benefit where the community will grow stronger and the golf course will continue to operate.”

Calls to other parties involved in the sale were not returned by the time of publication.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]