If the owner of Sundale Country Club was looking for financially stable business partners, he chose the wrong guys. But if the goal was to buy time, his choices were effective.
All three of the men Sundale owner Young Ohr gave a minority stake to in June 2018 have since filed for bankruptcy protection. The result has been repeated postponement of the golf course's sale at public auction.
The delays frustrate a pair of local investors who purchased the club's debt from a bank in Los Angeles. As long as bankruptcy continues to plague Ohr's partners — Steve Kim, John Park and Peter Song — the club will continue to operate much as it has despite a loan foreclosure process that has dragged on for about 16 months.
The repeated auction postponements have kept a cloud of uncertainty over Sundale.
The 18-hole golf course is the central feature of Kern City, the surrounding retirement community where residents have eyed the foreclosure process warily. Whoever ends up owning the property will have the option, starting in 2022, of turning all or part of the course into new housing, which many residents there oppose.
But the holdup isn't expected to last forever. Kim's and Park's bankruptcies have been dismissed, and the debt owners' Encino lawyer is trying now to have Song's Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing thrown out of court or decoupled from the foreclosure process. Either outcome would allow the property's auction to proceed.
Investor Jay Patel, speaking by email on behalf of himself and his business partner, Bakersfield businessman Girish Patel, emphasized they are trying to proceed with the auction and transfer of ownership "as soon as possible."
"The constant postponements have been due to the debtors' bankruptcies and not due to lender decisions to delay," he wrote. "I believe the postponements will come to an end very soon and we can all move on to a new future for this golf course."
Ohr did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. His three business partners, all of whom were listed in bankruptcy filings as being Los Angeles residents, could not be reached for comment.
Song's Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, dated Oct. 15, says he owes fewer than 50 creditors a total of between $50,001 and $100,000. It says his assets are worth no more than $50,000.
Bakersfield bankruptcy attorney D. Max Gardner, who is not connected to the Sundale case, observed that bringing in new part-owners who then proceed to file for bankruptcy protection can be regarded as a strategy to buy time.
"It can be a desperate tactic that's utilized to invoke the automatic stay (of a foreclosure auction) so that the creditor can't proceed with the trustee sale," he said.
Gardner added that such legal maneuvers don't happen often, and that people facing bankruptcy often do feel a sense of desperation because of the nature of their financial predicament.