Members of a golf club in south-west London, including TV stars Piers Morgan and Ant and Dec, could be in line for windfalls of up to £100,000 each after it received a £50 million takeover bid from the organisers of the Wimbledon tennis championship.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club has been in talks with the neighbouring Wimbledon Park Golf Club about taking over its lease so it can expand over the land occupied by the 73-acre course. The latest offer almost doubles the opening bid made three years ago - which was rejected - but is said to have created “unrest” among the 750-strong membership of the club.
Only members of at least 10 years’ standing would be entitled to the payouts. Some 300, or about 40 per cent, joined more recently than that, and face losing their golf club without any financial compensation.
The club’s rulebook states that 75 per cent of the membership would need to be in favour of the sale for it to go ahead.
In play | Wimbledon wants to expand into the golf club land, shown by dotted rule, to make room for extra courts
A recent letter from club chairman Jenny Gaskin said: “It is clear that under the Articles of the Company, consideration would only be due to members of more than 10 years’ standing. We know that this issue is causing unrest and can assure you that any final proposal that is put to the voting members will include a more equitable allocation of proceeds.”
The All England Club will get its hands on the golf course in 2041 anyway, when the golf club’s lease expires, but would like to accelerate the process so that it can press on with its ambitious plans, according to the Daily Mail. The tennis club paid Merton council £5.2 million for the freehold of the course in 1993.
The land would allow it to build new grass courts so that the qualifying rounds that take place three miles away in Roehampton could be brought “in-house”. It would also allow daily capacity to be increased from the limit of 40,000 spectators.
The move comes at a time when Wimbledon faces increased competition from Grand Slam rivals who have been enlarging their venues. The Australian Open now attracts more spectators than Wimbledon.