Tiger Woods suffers new billion-dollar blow

By benim
In Other Sports
Feb 1st, 2011
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Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has lost his form, his No1 world ranking and now his golf and property development has been suspended. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

The Tiger Woods “brand”, reeling after several sponsors abandoned the former world No1 in the wake of personal scandal, suffered yet another setback today when developers announced work on his first golf course design had been suspended indefinitely.

The Tiger Woods Dubai, a $1.1bn golf and property development, was due to open in late 2009 but as the global financial crisis struck and property prices in the desert emirate crashed its opening was postponed several times. Dubai Properties, the government-controlled company behind the project, continued to insist throughout that the course would open sooner rather than later.

In a statement today, however, the company confirmed it had suspended the project. “This decision was based on current market conditions that do not support high-end luxury real estate,” it said. “These conditions will continue to be monitored and a decision will be made in the future when to restart the project.” The company said it would maintain its commercial agreement with Woods and his organisation.

No date was given for resumption of work on the golf course project, although with countless high-end developments being abandoned in Dubai last year, there are doubts that it will ever be completed. Reports today suggested a decision had been taken to stop watering the six holes that had been built – a move which means the property will return to desert within a matter of months.

In November last year the Observer revealed construction work on the 292 residential properties had never started and that most of the staff employed at the development had been laid off months earlier. Those who remained were waiting for confirmation that the project was being allowed to “return to nature”. Over the last 10 years a number of golfers, including Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie, have been paid to “design” high-end courses as the desert emirate sought to expand its tourist industry.

Even by Dubai’s gilded standards, the Woods-endorsed development was opulent with “mansions” and “palaces” for sale, some of them priced at $25m. The project was also to feature a boutique hotel and a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Sources suggest that up to 30% of the properties on the development had been pre-sold, with buyers having put down a deposit to secure the purchase. It is not known what will happen to these deposits.

Woods is reported to have received a $10m fee for “designing” the course, as well as royalties on real estate sales and his choice of mansion on the development once it was completed. The former world No1 – now ranked third – is due to travel to Dubai next week to play the Dubai Desert Classic. Woods made his first appearance of the 2011 season at the PGA Tour event in San Diego, where he finished a disappointing 44th.

Afterwards, he was asked about the status of his Dubai project. “It’s been put on hold for right now. A lot of projects are out there,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s still there. We’ve got six completed holes and a few that were about to be grassed before construction was halted. Everything is on hold.”

In the 14 months since his infamous car crash outside his Florida home, Woods has endured a tough time on and off the course. He endured the first winless season of his career in 2010 and saw his form dip as he embarked on swing changes under a new coach, Sean Foley.

He also lost many of his biggest commercial sponsors, including the American telecommunications company AT&T and the financial firm Accenture. In November last year his agent, Mark Steinberg, suggested he was close to agreeing new sponsorship deals for his client. Since then, Woods has been dropped by Gillette and by Golf Digest.

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