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Thousand Islands Country Club sold to Chinese businessman for $5.25 million

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WELLESLEY ISLAND — The Thousand Islands Country Club was sold Monday by the Schwalm family of Wellesley Island to Ximin Shi, a Chinese businessman.

The 976-acre club on Wellesley Island was sold for $5,250,000, according to Mr. Shi’s attorney, James H. Messenger Jr. of Syracuse. The historic club includes two 18-hole golf courses, two restaurants, 20 villas and a marina.

Mr. Shi recently bought two other golf courses in upstate New York: Pioneer Hills Golf Club of Ballston Spa two years ago, and Greenview Country Club of West Monroe last year, Mr. Messenger said.

He said Mr. Shi owns residences in New Hartford and Manhattan, along with a home in China.

“He’s found that he likes to purchase and improve golf courses, and he thinks it’s a worthy investment,” Mr. Messenger said.

Mr. Shi is the director of Shera International Limited in Hong Kong, China, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. He practiced international corporate law for 20 years on Wall Street and earned his law degree from Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Mr. Messenger said Tuesday that over the next two years, significant improvements will be made to the club under its new ownership.

Renovations will be made at clubhouses for its Old Course and Lake Course, along with the villas. Landscaping improvements also will be made at both courses.

“It was a smooth closing, and I think the seller is pleased that an experienced operator has acquired the club,” Mr. Messenger said, adding that the deal had been negotiated since late 2013. “Plans are for some improvements to all of the facilities, to either restore them or keep them in their historic condition. There are going to be significant investments made with improvements to facilities, and at some point there will be additional parties added to invest.”

Mr. Messenger declined to identify the buyer earlier Tuesday as Mr. Shi, whose name was given as the principal of companies involved in the transaction.

William H. Bartlett, who will continue to serve as the club’s general manager, said the new owner plans to make major improvements to the club. He has spoken with Mr. Shi a few times during his visits.

“They are looking to do improvements to our villas, clubhouses and the golf courses,” Mr. Bartlett said. “I think they really want to make this place a nice destination.”

The Schwalm family had owned the club since 2002, when Thomas H. Schwalm bought it from Douglas M. Horton; Mr. Horton and his wife, Amy, had operated the club about 19 years.

Mr. Schwalm, who died in 2009, co-founded South Beach Beverage Co., known as SoBe Beverages, which was bought by PepsiCo Inc. in 2001.

His wife, JoAnn F. Schwalm, has served as owner and president of the club for the past five years.

A statement released Monday by the Schwalm family credited employees and business partners for the club’s success.

“For the last 12 years, we successfully invested our time, energy and assets into: preserving the historic character of Wellesley Island, restoration and improvement of both golf courses, affording safe dockage for boaters, providing hospitality to residents and visitors to the area and offering full-time and seasonal employment opportunities,” the statement reads. “Our success and many accomplishments over the years would not have been possible without the talents and dedication of our exceptional employees and local business partners, to whom we send our heartfelt thanks.”

The following seven companies — all owned by Mr. Shi — were involved in the purchase of different portions of the club, according to state Department of State records: Windermere Wellesley Corp. (bought Old Course), Lakeside Golf Club Co. Ltd. (Lake Course), Wellesley Mandolin Co. Ltd. (marina), Rock Bale Corp. (sanitation facility), Wellesley Rylstone Co. Ltd. (villas), Ramona Grove Corp. (vacant land) and the Corner Stone Assets Development and Management LLC (property management company).

The sale included 57 vacant residential lots that were developed by the Schwalm family, located along the golf courses and waterfront, according to Robert Nelson, associate broker of Sutton Real Estate Co., Syracuse.

An additional 326 acres of developable land also were sold by the Schwalm family to Mr. Shi.

Country Club Timeline
Once part of the Boldt family estate, the Thousand Islands Country Club was established in 1894, according to its website. It has changed ownership four times since 1980:
• 1980: Wellesley Island developer Jack B. Webb, along with Thomas B. Webb and Bernard A. Forth, bought the club as part of 1,400 acres of land for $600,000 from the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. As the club owner, Mr. Webb developed the Lake Golf Course.
• February 1984: Mr. Webb sold the club to Wellesley Island Resort Co., a a Syracuse-based partnership including Douglas M. Horton, Darl Johnston, Arthur McNight and Robert Hall. The club was operated by Mr. Horton and his wife, Amy, of Wellesley Island, for about 19 years.
• 2002: Mr. Horton sold the club to Thomas H. Schwalm, who died in 2009. His wife, JoAnn F. Schwalm, served as owner and president of the club for the past five years.
• May 2014: The Schwalm family sold the club to Ximin Shi, a Chinese businessman.
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