Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Schwab tees off on
Big Island golf course

Famed investor is building on
319 acres in North Kona

By Rick Daysog

Stock market pioneer Charles Schwab is moving forward with plans for an exclusive North Kona golf course, the latest upscale development project on the Big Island.

Art Schwab's Kekaha Venture Inc. has started construction on a 318.9-acre parcel near the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort after signing a 75-year lease with landowner Kamehameha Schools in July.

Financial terms of the new lease and details of Schwab's development plans were not available. Schwab's mainland representative, San Francisco attorney James Berg, did not return calls.

Kamehameha Schools, meanwhile, said the deal not only brings new revenues to fund its educational programs but creates a long-term relationship with a top-notch investor that is committed to building a world-class golf facility.

"This is a winner for everyone involved," said Kamehameha Schools Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin. "This will be a big boost to Hawaii's economy and we're pleased to help make this happen."

Real estate sources said that Schwab, who has owned a home on the Big Island for several years, may be looking to build a private 18-hole course or an exclusive club for well-heeled mainland investors.

The development is positive news for an isle economy whose tourism industry has been hard hit recently by the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.

It also underscores the Big Island's four-year real estate boom, which has been fueled chiefly by West Coast investors looking to park their stock market gains.

Developers have announced plans for more than $1 billion worth of infrastructure and upscale residential developments in West Hawaii over the next 20 years.

Schwab is a partner in the nearby Makalei Estates subdivision, which is developing 80 three-acre lots. Ron Aronson, president of Kona Coast Realty, the principal broker, said the developers have sold 37 lots at an average price of about $245,000.

State records show that Schwab's company took over the lease for the golf course property from PIA Kona Limited Partnership, whose investors include Potomac Sports Properties of McClean, Va. and Japanese builder Kajima Corp.'s Kaupulehu Makai Venture.

PIA Kona has held the lease on the property since 1990.

Kaupulehu Makai Venture is the developer of the 243-room Four Seasons Hualalai Resort. Its original investors also included Cosmo World, which was headed by Japanese real estate tycoon Minoru Isutani.

During the late 1980s Japanese bubble years, Isutani acquired the world-renowned Pebble Beach golf course but gave up the property, as well as his ownership rights to the Big Island projects, when Japan's economy headed south in the early 1990s.

Schwab, 64, is the founder of Charles Schwab Corp., the discount stock brokerage company which revolutionized Wall Street by making it possible for small investors to play the markets without having to rely on costly brokerage services.

In June, Forbes magazine estimated Schwab's personal wealth at $5.7 billion, making him the world's 47th richest individual.

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