Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Lake Lawn Resort deal final, finally

by Lisa Seiser

May 26, 2011

Lake Geneva businessman and philanthropist Jim Drescher wanted to have Lake Lawn Resort up and running by now. He wanted the golf course lush and green, the marina prepped, the hotel open and ready for guests and at least some of the 300 employees who lost their jobs in winter, back to work.

But the $9.5 million deal to purchase the property took much longer than expected, and now Drescher and his ownership group are hurrying to ensure at least parts of the facility are open for Memorial Day weekend.

Late last week, Drescher finalized the deal with the banks and now his investment group owns the property. Drescher had hoped the deal would have been completed in April to provide time for preparations to open the popular and historical Delavan resort.

That didn’t happen, but Drescher said he expects the golf course and marina to be open Friday. His goal is to open the resort by the end of June in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

“It has been a long journey and it is just good to get it done,” Drescher said Monday afternoon, just days after the contract was signed last Thursday and deal closed on Friday. “This certainly tested everyone’s patience.”

In late March, there was a principal agreement by the banks to sell to Drescher. But, since then, other investors voiced interest in the property, delays continued because of permitting and Drescher checked to make sure all the items he paid for were part of the sale.

Drescher said the last few weeks which included another potential buyer of the property coming forward made the situation “very confusing.”

According to news reports, Todd Wilkins expressed interest in purchasing the property. Drescher said Monday that Wilkins originally was part of his investment group, but they had a difference of opinion on how to operate the resort.

“He is a wonderful guy who is trying to do the right thing,” Drescher said of Wilkins.

Drescher said he is unsure if Wilkins had the money, but he doesn’t believe Wilkins’ action changed the process for Drescher’s cash purchase of the property.

“It added confusion,” Drescher said. “But, that’s what the free enterprise system is all about. If he would have been successful, I would have been just as hopeful for the resort to open and be successful.”

Drescher said another situation that may have slowed the process was a late withdrawal by one of his investors. After some work, he replaced the investor with two new ones.

Now his focus is on preparing the grounds and the resort for opening. Drescher said the rooms are in good shape, but it’s the amenities that will take some time to prepare. He said the work will be on the dining rooms and pool.

“If it was just a matter of renting the rooms out, we could do that right away, but people expect amenities when they come here,” Drescher said.

The new owners have received help from personnel at Geneva National to prepare the golf course. Drescher said local contractors will be used for as much of the work at the resort as possible, which will include repairs and painting.

He admitted after walking the property all weekend long, it’s going to be quite a job, which he described as “overwhelming.”

“It’s exciting, but a lot of work,” Drescher said. “My goal is to make the resort a community asset again. It is the biggest asset the city of Delavan has.”

On March 25, as many as 13 banks who are stakeholders in the foreclosed property, agreed in principal to sell Lake Lawn Resort to Drescher and his investors for $9.5 million. The agreement came on the heels of weeks of work by Drescher negotiating with bank officials, specifically Patrick Wright of Anchor Bank. For nearly a week prior to the accepted offer, communication between Wright and Drescher had broken down and Drescher admitted to the Delavan City Council on March 24, that his offer the next day would be his last.

Once the principal deal was complete, Delavan City Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis and City Administrator Joe Salitros met with Drescher, Wright and attorney Dale Thorpe to make the official announcement at City Hall. The closing of the all cash transaction was expected to take place in the next 30 days.

The day after an agreement was made in principle, Drescher said he was pleased to get the deal done so the resort can be reopened and people can come back to work. The resort closed at the end of last year and about 300 people lost their jobs.

Throughout the process, Drescher has said helping the community and the resort get back on its feet by employing people was his main goal. He said this hasn’t been about the money, it’s about the jobs and the community. He has said his group of investors had raised about $12 million.

Drescher, who owns J.D. Development and runs the W.C. Food Pantry, will remain involved in opening and running of the facility.