As the “I need Masters tickets” and “Badges wanted” signs are already beginning to pop up around the Augusta area, a scandal has just rocked a local ticket brokering business.
Late last week, Rick Owings, member of Best Golf Experiences, LLC sent his clients a letter with earth-shattering news.
“It is with the deepest regret that I must inform each of you as quickly as possible of a catastrophic situation affecting both Best Golf Experiences, LLC and myself, and in turn having a serious impact to each of you,” the Feb. 21 letter from Owings begins. “I have been victimized by fraud by the owner of the prior company.”
In the letter, Owings states he is immediately notifying all of his clients in order to afford them the greatest amount of time to make “alternative arrangements” for this year’s Masters tournament.
“Best Golf Experiences, LLC has sustained significant financial losses as a result of a consultants’ theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars coupled with significant added consequential costs and damages,” the Feb. 21 letter states.
Owings insists that the individual responsible for fraudulent behavior is not any of the current employees, but the previous owner of Best Golf Experiences, LLC.
“Based on the aforementioned discoveries of fraud and damage sustained, Best Golf’s lender has this week elected to foreclose on all its secured interests and sweep all cash on hand which has now forced Best Golf Experiences, LLC to close,” Owings stated in the letter.
Best Golf Experiences, LLC is apparently out of money and officially “out of business,” Owings states.
“I intend to pursue all legal remedies available to me for the losses I have sustained pursuant to the owner of the prior company as he is the cause of this all now taking place as direct result of fraud,” Owings writes. “We relied on the owner of the prior company to our collective detriment; if he had fully disclosed these material facts, none of these losses would have ever occurred. I never would have purchased the prior owner’s company had he fully disclosed all the facts to me.”
Clearly, these are some harsh allegations that Owings is making against the previous owner. Sources close to the situation say the prior owner, Danny Williams, is a very well-respected businessman in the Augusta community. He was in the ticket brokering business for many years and had well-established relationships with some impressive clients such as Rolex and Aflac.
About three years ago, Williams decided to sell his ticket brokering business, then called Sports Venture, to the new owners with the contingency that he would stay on for the next three consecutive years.
Following the purchase, the new owners changed the name of the business to Best Golf Experiences, LLC.
Ever since Owings’ letter was sent out to Best Golf Experiences, LLC’s clients on Feb. 21, Williams has been unable to respond to the allegations because he was overseas on a trip to Australia.
Several sources involved in other local ticket brokering businesses, who wished to remain anonymous, have told the Metro Spirit that Williams is furious over Owings’ allegations and wishes he never met the new owners of the business.
However, unfortunately for Williams, this is still the third year of his agreement with Best Golf Experiences, LLC and, therefore, he might be left holding the bag.
But even more painful is the fact that the business he spent so many years building has clearly been destroyed.
Even Best Golf Experiences, LLC’s website, www.bestgolfexperiences.com, brags about the 17-year legacy of this ticket brokering business.
“It was founded by and is owned and operated by Augusta natives who have the experience to plan and coordinate memorable and stress-free golfing experiences,” the website states. “We have worked with major corporations worldwide and can provide references upon request. Our Masters golf packages can be customized for specific days and include everything you need to make your visit to the Masters truly memorable.”
The website also pushes the company’s connections with the owners of some of the finest homes in Augusta.
“In what has to be one of the most unique arrangements for any major sporting event in the world, many of the finest homes in the area are made available every year to guests of the Masters Tournament,” the website states. “This tradition was the result of need. It was a match made in, shall we say, the Amen Corner.”
The website states that Best Golf Experiences, LLC can serve everyone from the needs of large corporations to famous celebrities.
“Our clients include the most particular homeowners in Augusta, as well as tournament guests seeking home rentals,” the website states. “Due to our reputation and close ties to the community, we have a database of more than 500 homes of all sizes to fit every budget, from luxury townhouses to sprawling mansions.”
As far as Owings’ statement to his clients, the bottom line seems to indicate whatever these clients have already paid to Best Golf Experiences, LLC is likely gone.
“A trustee is being assigned shortly to manage the process for all clients and homeowners as unsecured creditors,” Owings writes in his Feb. 21 letter. “The trustee will provide a detail of accounting for all outstanding balances due resulting from the foreclosure and sweeping of the cash on hand.”
Owings, who has been described as being a well-organized and proficient businessman by those in the industry, reiterated in his letter that he was not personally responsible for the “catastrophic” situation.
“Tragically, these events are not within the ability of Best Golf Experiences, LLC or me to control,” Owings stated in his Feb. 21 letter. “The fraud by the owner of the prior company has destroyed Best Golf Experiences as well as me personally; I have been victimized and fully understand that it is severely damaging to each of you as well.”
Owings did not return numerous calls seeking comment.
Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Lewis Blanchard, who also happens to be the president of Executive Marketing Services which provides clients with lodging and tickets to sporting events, said he is unaware of the owners or a representative from Best Golf Experiences, LLC filing any kind of complaint of fraud with the sheriff’s department.
“To the best of my knowledge, nobody has filed anything with us as of yet,” Blanchard said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that it is probably not forthcoming because it is almost a normal occurrence every two or three years for companies that do stuff like that.”
In fact, just last year a Canadian entertainment events company filed a federal lawsuit against a local firm, Mullins Management, claiming that it violated a 2013 contract to provide 100 Masters tickets to the Ontario-based company.
The Canadian company was seeking at least $1.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages, according to its 2013 lawsuit.
Blanchard said the best way individuals can protect themselves against fraud — not only when seeking Masters tickets, but tickets to any other sporting event — is to make sure a ticket brokering business is licensed and bonded.
“I don’t think it’s just Augusta per say. There are companies all across America in this business, whether it is the Super Bowl, the U.S. Open, the Final Four, a lot of those companies come and go and they do multiple events,” Blanchard said. “You want to make sure the company that you deal with is licensed and bonded, of course. That’s really the only protection you have.”
One of the main individuals that several sources close to the situation are blaming for Best Golf Experiences, LLC’s downfall is local ticket broker who used to work with Williams. He is said to have been the “boots on the ground guy” at Sports Venture. Apparently, the company rented the Simon’s Formalwear facility in National Hills two years ago as its headquarters for Masters Week and rented the old bank drive-through in front of National Hills Shopping Center this past year.
Several sources close to the situation, who also wished to be unnamed in the story, have said this particular local ticket broker took deposits of $2,500 to $2,700 for badges last year. Then, suddenly, the tickets began selling for around $3,500.
For each ticket sold, the company was allegedly upside down in the deal. After last year’s tournament, sources say this broker abruptly left the company amidst allegations of ticket fraud and failure to deliver badges and tickets he had promised.
Rumor is that due to this broker’s actions, some ticket providers were forced to pay upwards of $7,000 per badge last year just to cover their obligations.
The Metro Spiritattempted to contact this particular local broker seeking a comment regarding the closure of Best Golf Experiences, LLC, but he did not return any phone calls.
Several sources within the ticket brokering business have said the company was forced to roll the losses from 2013 into this year and the owners of Best Golf Experiences, LLC have allegedly taken deposits (one source reports a figure of between $750,000 and $1 million) for houses reserved for large corporations and yet they have not paid the homeowners or ticket holders.
Best Golf Experiences, LLC has now allegedly taken money from clients and turned around and declared themselves out of business.
How does all of this impact the rest of us?
All of this chaos has driven the price of Masters tickets up this year. Ticket prices are currently in a state of flux. As news of this scandal spreads, ticket brokers predict it is going to cause people to panic and completely rattle the entire business.
Word on the street is that the big ticket brokers are already aware of the scandal because they quickly realized Best Golf Experiences, LLC was going bust.
And, what about Best Golf Experiences, LLC’s clients who had put money down for some tickets and lodging?
As far as a legal remedy for those out of money, the news isn’t good: Unless you have a written contract in place, experts say there is not much you can do about it.
It’s sort of like the drug business. It’s a handshake deal.