The Bobby Ginn Enigma

Not many are neutral on real estate developer Bobby Ginn. Like the New York Yankees, he’s either loved or reviled.

Palm Coast, Florida – February 20, 2009Bobby Ginn is an enigma. Controversy has followed the charismatic real estate developer from his bankruptcies in Hilton Head, South Carolina in the 80s where "Honk if Bobby Owes You Money" bumper stickers were popular. His reincarnation in the 90s with a new financial partner, Lubert-Adler soon led to his designation as "the real estate developer who was moving the most dirt in the Western Hemisphere." Along with success came flamboyance expressed through sporting event sponsorships, corporate planes, and a NASCAR team, all prominently displaying the Ginn name. Now he faces a new set of problems, including lawsuits and more bankruptcies. He no longer participates in the vital decisions of the company that carries his name. He is both admired for what he built and reviled for what many think he has done.
A lot of money was made by Ginn and his partner as well as by many who purchased properties in his communities. But as the market heated up beyond the point of sustainability (fueled by the false optimism of a "new economy") money continued to pour in until the bubble burst. It was like a game of musical chairs, but when the music stopped not just one chair was missing. ALL the chairs were gone.
Today the Ginn organization (along with developers in general) and many who own property in their communities are struggling mightily. I’ve heard from dozens who have lost the accumulation of their life’s work. Many face foreclosures and bankruptcy. The devastation has triggered more than one divorce. Lawsuits have been filed. More will follow.
Is Bobby to blame? Not totally. Bobby is a visionary. He can look at a pile of dirt and envision a magnificent resort there, much as a talented musician can hear second and third level harmonics that we do not. He is also the consummate marketer, able to sell his product to customers and financiers. He compensated his employees well and provided benefits much better than most local employers. Most employees liked working for him. And he was charitable, donating tens of thousands to charities and land to conservation trusts.
The company grew too quickly. Bobby is neither a manager nor an operator. Once past the design and construction phase, he seems to lose interest in details. Bobby surrounded himself with cronies, including some who shared in his past debacles. Some of these cronies were unethical. Some were incompetent. Some were reportedly dishonest. They took advantage of Bobby’s lack of oversight and misplaced trust. Bobby either overlooked or condoned their actions and kept them on the payroll too long. As the one at the top, he is responsible.
The blame extends beyond the company to include appraisers, loan originators, title companies, and bankers. How else could an interior lot in Bella Collina be appraised for more than $1.2 million for a loan approved for someone unable to pay? I’m told that at least one upcoming lawsuit will be aimed in their direction.
What about the buyers. Are they all victims? Someone once told me that developers cause speculation. Developers don’t cause speculation any more than casinos cause gambling. Casinos are built because gamblers already exist. Buyers have to take responsibility for their own choices, however unwise. But, I’ve seen several pieces of evidence that the "buyer beware" defense does not always apply. In many cases, the deck was stacked against buyers, beginning with the legal mania created by a "launch" sales event followed by questionable tactics to raise comps in order to fuel price increases, pump up appraisals, and enhance loan qualifications.
In spite of Bobby’s assertion to the contrary, the selling model relied heavily on recruiting investors who became the real estate equivalent of day traders. They believed it was ok to pay $100 thousand more than the seller paid only days ago in the firm belief that the person behind them in line would do the same. Lots and houses were bought to be flipped, condos to be placed in the rental program.
Without a continually rising market, this model does not work. POA fees, club dues, and rental management charges (all excessive because they are controlled by the company) erase any hope of profits. Bobby overreached. He laid out Tesoro, Bella Collina, Laurelmor, and the Conservatory in markets that historically absorbed only a few dozen multi-million dollar homes per year. In retrospect, phased development would have made more sense.
It’s clear that the Ginn-Lubert Adler marriage is being unwound. In some cases (Laurelmor, BriarRose, and Cobblestone Park) Ginn is being replaced with other operators. Executives from Linger Longer have been seen recently at Hammock Beach and Reunion.
One thing you cannot take away from Bobby. He built some incredible properties. You cannot play the golf course at the Conservatory, visit Hammock Beach and Reunion resorts, or walk through the Bella Collina clubhouse without feeling a sense of awe. These properties, and the employees who staff them, make you feel you are in a very special place. They will not go to waste. Some new blood with fresh approaches will be welcome. Replace the old model with something new. Because it would open up the market to more potential buyers, fractional ownership shows signs of promise for the future second home and vacation market – multi-million dollar homes being shared by non multi-millionaires.

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16 replies
  1. Frank C.
    Frank C. says:

    Eyes Wide Shut

    Much of the real estate boom was fueled by greed. Those who went in with our eyes open and didn’t bite off more than we could chew will probably eventually come out OK.
    Thank You Toby for all of your good work and insight. See you at the eagle’s nest!

  2. Charles Denise
    Charles Denise says:


    "Buyers have to take responsibility for their own choices."…You are right on the money Toby! Granted, there are other factors at work, but the reality is that real estate speculation is no different than stock speculation, except stocks are much more liquid. Remember when we were kids, looking to buy our first house? Our family elders very wisely echoed the fact that "You will NEVER lose money investing in Real Estate!" Those sage words reverberated in my head back in early 2000 when I made a killing in the market. I pulled out (luckily in time!) My tail was wagging and I felt brilliant…only to sink the proceeds, and then some, into Florida Real Estate!!! Well, sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you! We will recover…IMHO there is one more big wave of Baby Boomers poised to jump in…patience is key. Will the values ever reach the ’05 levels? Who knows…For us, the clock is ticking…as long as we have some semblance of health then we are fine. In a few weeks We go back to the Jersey Shore until election time. Hopefully it will be warm there! The ‘enigma’ effects everyone, everywhere, but in the words of that famous Montclair Yankee…"It ain’t over until its over!" Toby, keep up the splendid work, and I’m sure that when things start turning around, we’ll here it from you first! CPD

  3. frankie cocanote
    frankie cocanote says:

    frank half right

    toby excellent assessment of ginn. i like reading your insight on these matters but i do not agree with frank.i have daughters that ride horese competively in the midwest. the main reason i bought in reunion was a sales pitch of an equestrian center on propery.i thought it was an ecellent way for my daughters to enjoy riding in winter months and the temp.that would not reach sub zero’s. that was five years ago.i agree the spectulaters and people with multiple properties did it for greed.but many with only one property put up with ginns lie’s and broken promises for at least 5 years.ex. world class spa, gym,clubhouse,horses,etc.we are not the greedy ones. we want what we were promised and been paying for years and years.

  4. sammy johnson
    sammy johnson says:


    toby you are once again on target and so is frankie…i cannot beleive these comments defending this crook unless they are phonys from his group of"cronies"as you put it…like frankie i have been a ginn owner who did not "invest as so many people did.i was promised certain amenities which mr ginn never had any intention of following through. i think this brand of lying is almost a ponzie scheme and ginn et al will be in jail one day….he took the money from one development,never finished it and then went to the next one,took their money and on and on it went….no clubhouse at reunion ,no town center,no gym,no spa no horses.the worst part as you put it toby was that the people he has running these places like reunion have absolutly no clue what they are hospitality backround at all…i hope this linger longer group takes over quickly because reunion is being run into the ground now…hours of operation cut, staff cut,golf courses not being watered and no cut in the ripoff dues structure….THEY WILL AT THE END GET WHAT IS CONING TO THEM

  5. Charles Denise
    Charles Denise says:


    Toby, I cannot relate to the plight of the Ginn ‘victim’… but I hear some of your reader’s comments and I have to feel bad for them. I didn’t buy into the Ginn hype, mostly because I couldn’t afford to. The fact that he reneged on some "deal-sealing’ promises, makes it criminal. The Bankrupcy laws, are sometimes criminal as well. BUT, my question is…WHERE IS ALL THAT MONEY HE GOT FOR THOSE RIDICULOUSLY INFLATED LOTS IN THE CONSERVATORY???? If you do the math, the numbers are staggering…Someone should look into his ‘off shore’ accounts…and redistribute some of that $ among those not receiving the ammenties as promised. The whole thing is sickening…CPD

  6. JM
    JM says:

    Where is the suit?

    Great article once again. This is a terrible situation for so many to be in. Hopefully this is an exercise for so many in our nation to help them realize what is important……family, health, God & love. I certainly know that the financial hardships that I now face have opened my eyes to these things and I am so thankful for what I do have.

    I attended a meeting at in Orlando a few weeks back with a law group from Chicago (I think). The suit was advertised as going after the banks, appraisers, etc. I haven’t heard a peep from anyone since the meeting. I’m certain you have some insight. Did the law firm opt not to take on the case? I really felt a sense of hope after the meeting but that has sort of fizzled out due to the lack of communication.

    Any insight from Toby or another reader would be appreciated.

  7. Lucky
    Lucky says:


    Toby good article and as always strong in accuracy. I got to tell ya, I wait for the day people stop blaming individuals for their own poor decisions. I do feel bad for people who bought for specific reasons or false promises from weak sales people, i.e. Frankie C. or folks up at Bella that purchased for similar reasons i.e. horses.

    In fact I made my own poor decisions with a Bella Collina purchase. I was responsible for my own research and findings. I knew that Lake Apopka was polluted. I wasn’t blind to the fact that developments like the ones envisioned take many more years from start to finish than anticipated. I had been to Reunion and saw how beautiful it was/is but at the end of the day when I had the pen in my hand it was my sole decision whether to buy or not.

    In such turbulent economic times for so many it is ok to feel sorry for some but if more folks bought for the RIGHT reasons they wouldn’t be pointing every finger they have looking for someone to blame.

    Stop with the lemons already make lemonade…

  8. Mike L
    Mike L says:

    inflating lot prces

    The cards are stacked against you when you put trust and faith into an organization, who you believe to be honest and it turns out they manipulated prices by buying properties cash and inflating prices.

    Yes the economy and market is in a serious decline, but the serious manipulation and enhancing the speculation has caused this to ruin lives.

    For any possibility to salvage some of your investment, Ginn’s name should be removed from all his communities, allowing new investments and ideas.

    This is the only possibility to move forward in any of his communities.

  9. Frankie Coconote
    Frankie Coconote says:

    lucky or do i mean ginn

    mr. lucky. that weak salesman you are referring to is bobby ginn himself. he was the one at the launches telling every there about the world class gym, spa,miles of running/biking trails[where are they] horses, clubhouse[cannot even shower& change after a round or golf]. you must have missed these because the guy at the top was doing the sales pitch.shame on me for beleaving what he said. and shame on you for buying on a lake that you knew befor hand that it was pulluted. how lucky are you?

  10. LouM
    LouM says:

    An other point of view

    Beside low cost of living and sunshine, Tennis facility (Players Club) and Golf courses (Palm Harbor and others) were the main attraction to retire in Palm Coast.(or move here as a bedroom community to Jacksonville or Daytona Beach)

    There was an unwritten contract between society (people who moved to PC) and the developers for amenities. The developers broke that contract.

    The City was compelled to live up to the developer’s end of the contract and financed the City Tennis Center and the City Golf Course.

    You can’t judge a person only for his vision. With millions of $$$$ to spend you can be a visionary too.

    A person should be judged not only by the vision but how much benefit or damage he or she is causing to society.

    Mr. Ginn (Gin Empire) and Mr. Peter Roehr (European Village fame, and destroyer of the "World Class" Players Club caused more damage than benefit to Palm Coast.

  11. George Edward Chuddy
    George Edward Chuddy says:

    Reply to LouM

    Palm Coast is a community of communities. Eleven, to be exact. And each, from the pine forests of Seminole Woods to the waterways of Palm Harbor, has distinct virtues making it a special place to live. Yet collectively, they fly under the same banner, and that’s what sets them apart from the rest of Florida. They all are part of Palm Coast, "one of the finest planned communities in the United States.". The Palm Coast liefestyle is what unites them. The golf courses, tennis clubs, swim clubs, marina and other Palm Coast amenities make every homesite in every community a prime location. In fact, there is a wide variety of choice homesites still available throughout Palm Coast. In Pine Lakes, with its country club. In Belle Terre, where the swim and racquet club and Belle Terre Middle School are located. In Matanzas Woods, where the new Arnold Palmer-designed golf course will be completed in 1985. In Seminole Woods, within five miles of the high school and the cities of Flagler Beach and Bunnell. In fact, some of the best homesites in Palm Coast are still for sale. ITT Community Development Corporation makes the decision to purchase the homesite less difficult. There are ffinancing choices to suit almost any budget. Talk to a Palm Coast land sales representative to find out more, at 1.800.874.1828, in Florida, 904.445.3411, or at your nearest Palm Coast sales office. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at the diverse communities that are Palm Coast:

    Belle Terre -Site of the First Palm Coast Triathlon, the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, with tennis courts, heated 50 meter pool, Nautilus room and Fitness Trail, is a focal pint of this community west of I 95, where the modern Belle Terre Middle School opened in 1982. Forested homesites compliment beautiful homes.

    Cypress Knoll – The site of Palm Coast’s fourth golf course, to be completed in 1990, Cypress Knoll borders Highway 100 and Belle Terre Parkway. Near Flagler Palm Coast High School, homesites here offer convenient access to Flagler County’s other major towns, Bunnell and Flagler Beach, and to the amenities of Pine Lakes and Belle Terre.

    Grand haven – Grand Haven is the community of The Woodlands neighborhood, home of Tennis Pro Tom Gullikson and family, and Woodhaven Condominiums. Its 3,500 acre conservation area borders the Old Kings Road entrance to Palm Coast east of I 95, one of the most beautiful travel routes in the community.

    Indian Trails.- One of Palm Coast’s fastest growing communities, Indian Trails is north of St. Joe Road, west of I 95. The beautiful new Methodist Church is here, and Palm Coast’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) designates three school sites in the community. Indian Trails’ entrance is within two miles of the Palm Harbor Shopping Center, even closer to Pine Lakes Couontry Club.

    Lehigh Woods – Just south of the Pine Lakes Community, Lehigh Woods homesites are within four miles of the country club and Belle Terr’s swim and racquet club, as well as Highway 100. the quickest route to Flagler’s beautiful beaches.

    Matanzas Woods – In 1985, Matanzas Woods will be home to Palm Coast’s third golf course, once again a design of Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, who worked their majic at Pine Lakes Country Club. Matazas Woods is the Palm Coast community closet to the entertainment and atmosphere of the oldest city, St. Augustine, less than 25 miles north.

    PALM HARBOR – At the heart of Palm Coast, Palm Harbor, contains homesites bordered by 23 miles of salt water calans, and many of Palm Coast’s community facilities, including the shopping center, marina, tennis club, Harbour Restaurant, Community Center, professional office park and Palm Harbor Club, home course of LPGA star Nancy Lopez.

    Pine Grove – To the south of the Belle Terre community. Pine Grove homesites offer the same advantages as those in Lehigh Woods – close proximity to the amenities of Pine Lakes and Belle Terre and to Highway 100, Flagler County’s main transportation artery that ends at the Atlantic Ocean.

    Pine Lakes – Home to the elegant Pine Lakes Country Club and its Arnold Palmer designed championship course, Pine Lakes also offers some of Palm Coast’s most beautiful homes, including the popular villas and new models coming in 1984.

    Palm Coast Area Map

    1. Matanzas Woods

    2. Indian Trails

    3. Pine Lakes

    4. Lehigh Woods

    5. Cypress Knoll

    6. Quail Hollow

    7. Palm Harbor

    8. Grand Haven

    (The Woodlands)

    9. Belle Terre

    10. Pine Grove

    11. Seminole Woods

    Quail Hollow – Site of the new Flagler County Council on Aging headquarters, Quail Hollow is a beautiful community south of Highway 100, where less that two miles east are the Flagler County Airport and Flagler Palm Coast High School. Bordering U.S. 1, Quail Hollow offers homesites that make quick trips to Daytona Beach even quicker.

    Seminole Woods – Also south of Highway 100 and due east of Quail Hollow, Seminole Woods is the Palm Coast community whose entrance is within four miles of the Arlantic Ocean. The wooded homesites here, as in Quail Hollow, are close to Daytona beach, yet less than ten miles from the attractions of the communiity there are a part of – Palm Coast.

    Wherever you’ve purchased or decide to purchase in the future, you can rest easy knowing there’s a beautiful piece of Palm Coast waiting for you. And Palm Coast is Florida at her finest.

    *Florida Builder 1982

    News for Current Homesite Owners

    If ou already own a homesite purchased from ICDC, and you’re ready to build with Palm Coast Construction Company, take advantage of Palm Coast’s Exchange Prilileg Program. You can trade in your homesite for a house/lot package elsewhere and receive credit toward your home purchase. Get all the details by contacting your nearest Palm Coast Inc. sales office or calling toll-free 1.800.874.1828. It could be the best move you make in your life.

    FROM: The Palm Coaster 1984 pp.11-12.
    We hope the new arrivals enjoy our sharing this little history.
    Geroge Edward Chuddy

  12. Scott Smith
    Scott Smith says:

    Fired byGinn Resorts..

    As a "former" Quail West Sales agent, I can attest to the truth of this story. Bobby is a visionary with exceptional taste and a love for the creating. I am still a Bobby Ginn fan though I left the company in ’05 with conflict under middle management – life happens.

    Yes, Bobby is far from perfect – but he gives more (personally) then he takes from people and left most environments better then he found them. He’s kept people on payroll that a normal business climate would have shown them the door and his kindness to family was often abused.

    I think Bobby’s biggest downfall is, he hates controversy or conflict. It screws with the “creative” in his blood and puts a speed bump in front of his passion.

    Greed from (uneducated) investors and demanding backers pushed Bobby’s business model beyond ability to “pencil”. Look at the BK papers and you will see that!

    Remember “Buyer Beware” or maybe, what daddy said about southern charm VS Yankee carpetbaggers? There are soap operas that would play-out well under the Ginn umbrella, for sure, but if you are looking to place blame – did YOU buy, refi or chase the real estate rainbow in between 2002–2006? What was YOUR motivation? Not GREED, I am sure?

  13. Mike Traynor
    Mike Traynor says:


    Talk all you want about Bobby being a visionary, but the bottom line is this . . . a true visionary understands the economics of his situation as much as he understands his own vision. Bobby Ginn was, and is a con man, pure and simple. Anyone can visualize a grandiose golf course on a pile of dirt. A true visionary understands the economics that make it work. Ginn, in reality, is not that smart. He is just a good liar.

  14. toby
    toby says:

    Reply to Charles

    Conservatory lots sold for a total of about $141 million, much more than the cost of land, improvements, golf course and clubhouse. At the Conservatory, all promised amenities were completed, no corners cut. But Ginn-LA insulated each community from the others for protection against any single failure. The profits on one are not obligated to help projects that are unsuccessful. Conservatory profits are not obligated to be used to finish the Sports Center at Bella Collina or the Beach Club at Tesoro.

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