Jan 31st, 2016
Wentworth legal action
The fight back begins
Words: John Dean Photography: Getty Images
The new Chinese owners of Wentworth have been sent a 15-page legal letter, giving them a week to drop plans to bring in a £100,000 joining fee.
Members of one of Britain’s most prestigious golf clubs have threatened legal action against their new foreign owners over plans to introduce a £100,000 fee.
In a 15-page legal letter sent last week, Wentworth’s new owners were given an ultimatum to back down or face court action.
The letter claims the planned changes to the club’s membership will breach a legal trust agreement in place for 50 years, contravene consumer and equality laws, and possibly even break Chinese laws on joining golf clubs.
“The proposed membership structure will fundamentally change the nature and character of the club and the Wentworth estate and is unacceptable. It must cease,” states the members’ letter.
According to Nigel Moss, who is leading the campaign, “Reignwood hasn’t listened and is simply trying to ride roughshod over the Wentworth community.”
The letter goes on: “The club will, if the proposed membership structure is implemented, become the preserve of a small number of extremely high net worth individuals and lose its role at the heart of the vibrant community of the Wentworth estate.”
Lawyers also argue that the proposed “exclusive membership” could be in breach of Chinese law. Campaigners have claimed that such practices are forbidden in China.
Members have formed a fighting fund and employed a specialist litigation practice to fight the changes.
The law firm claims the reforms breach a 50-year-old trust document, which is said to guarantee the character of the club.
It also argues that estate residents’ rights of access and membership of the club would be threatened by the “prohibitively expensive joining fee”.
The £100,000 sum is described as “a patently unfair charge, whose purpose and effect appears to be to exclude the majority of the current members”
Eric Leon, chairman of the Wentworth Residents Association, said: “It is an absolute tragedy that the situation remains so antagonistic when a fair and reasonable solution could easily have been found.
“Reignwood appears intent on clearing out the membership, restricting accessibility to the club and thereby changing the character of a great golfing institution.”
Nigel Moss, the campaign leader, said: “Reignwood hasn’t listened and is simply trying to ride roughshod over the Wentworth community.”
A spokesman for Wentworth said: " Wentworth has undertaken an extensive legal review of the proposed membership structure, together with various legal and professional advisers, including seeking the opinion of Queen’s Counsel, which has confirmed that based on the available evidence it is able to proceed with the revised structure.”
This one is going to rumble on.