Sea Pines chairman takes long view on capital improvements

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comApril 19, 2014 

Matt Goodwin

Sea Pines Resort chairman Matt Goodwin believes the old saying that a rising tide lifts all boats.

That's what his family's RiverStone Group LLC thinks can happen as it invests $50 million in the Hilton Head Island community that has hosted the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing since 1969.

True to a core belief of his father, William H. "Bill" Goodwin Jr., the additions of a new Harbour Town Clubhouse, Plantation Golf Club and Sea Pines Beach Club, are paid for in-house, debt-free.

"My dad made a commitment when we bought Sea Pines in March of 2005 (for $23.4 million) that we would reinvest our profits back into Sea Pines for a long time," Goodwin said, "and we've done that and more."

Sea Pines insiders say it is the first time the 57-year-old company has ever been properly capitalized.

Goodwin said, "We're investing in a business, a management team and a customer."

Business is good, he said, including golf.

"The last two years have actually been record financial years for us, both of them, so we have a lot of confidence in Sea Pines right now," he said.

The management team, led by Steve Birdwell, "has done a great job with tired assets," he said.

The customer is likely to be a return visitor and a family-oriented vacationer, he said.

"You can spend a lot more money in a place like Kiawah Island," Goodwin said. "People who come to Sea Pines feel like they're getting a good value for their dollar."

Sea Pines is not trying to be "something we can't be," he said.

"We don't have a hotel on the ocean. We're trying to be a good value, a very high-quality resort property with many things to do. Play golf, go to the beach, stay in a nice hotel, go shopping, boating, there's just a lot of different things to do. We're trying to raise the quality, and the quality basically has been declining for the last 30 years."

Goodwin thinks the investment will be good for real estate, good for the economy -- and an encouragement to others to reinvest in their property.

FAMILY TRADITIONS

For the Goodwin family, the Sea Pines story sounds familiar.

The family's portfolio in the hospitality industry includes Kiawah Island Golf Resort and The Sanctuary hotel they built there, the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville and Kestwick Hall near Charlottesville, Va. All are high-end properties the family has spent a lot on to restore and improve.

Sea Pines also is a personal investment because the Richmond, Va., family has owned property here since the 1970s.

Matt Goodwin grew up listening to Gregg Russell and riding the bike paths with his parents. He kicked soccer balls on the beach. And with five children in the family and all the friends they used to bring with them, he built many memories here.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch refers to his parents as billionaire philanthropists who have given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical and educational pursuits. Alice T. Goodwin has focused on cancer and biomedical research. When Bill Goodwin, who started his independent business career with $6,000, sold the AMF Bowling company to an investment group, he shared $50 million with the employees. His civic involvement includes vice rector of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors.

Today, his five children and a son-in-law are active in the family's widespread business empire.

LONG-TERM

Matt Goodwin pushes an active lifestyle.

He's an avid golfer, squash player and skier. He played soccer at Washington & Lee University in his home state. He's run in about 20 half-marathons and one marathon.

"I do a lot of things when I have time," he said. "I do have two young kids and a wife, but I sneak out when I can."

His wife, Kristi, is a trustee of the University of Virginia Darden School Foundation. She earned an MBA there, as did her father-in-law.

Now Matt, 42, and Kristi Goodwin come to Hilton Head with their own children: Alice, 5, and Evelyn, 3.

"Hilton Head has been a big part of my life," he said. "This new investment is something we're excited about. We're doing it, not for the next five years. This is for the next 30 or 40 years. Most owners are trying to get in and get out in a five- to 10-year period, and we're just not that and we've proven it in the past few years. In fact, we're just getting started."

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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