Creation and Ownership 1968 - 1998
- 1966 - Stockton family acquires property.
- 1975 - Industrial America Corporation, the original developer, turns the property over to three banks. Atlantic Bank, the lead financial institution, becomes the trustee.
- 1976 - Sawgrass Property Owners Association is formed.
- 1977 - Arvida buys Sawgrass.
- 1985 - Arvida buys Sawgrass Country Club. John Yelverton is named General Manager.
- 1987 - Members buy Club from Arvida and Sawgrass becomes an equity club. A Transition Committee is formed to oversee the change of operations.
- 1988 - Conversion to an equity club is completed with 585 members.
- 1989 - First board is elected. Arvida has a 4-3 majority and Arvida executive Tom Hale is elected president.
- 1990 - Membership takes control of club and elects board and their first president, Tom Wilson.
- 1994 - First board elected with no Arvida representation.
- 1997 - Negotiations completed to purchase memberships held by Arvida.
- 1998 - Members approve Arvida buyout of 160 memberships at $2.4 million. Equity members approve proposal to purchase remaining certificates and separate from Arvida.
Four different entities have been the “owners” of Sawgrass Country Club over the years.
James R. “Jimmy” Stockton Jr.
Son of a real estate developer, he worked in the family company and became president when his father died in 1968. Most of the land that now includes the country club belonged to the company and he added more acres when he began the development.
He intended to preserve as much of it as possible in its natural state and visited other developments, such as Hilton Head, which would serve as a model. He also drew on his experiences on safaris in Africa.
Stockton and his wife, Vicki, remain active in the Club and live a few miles south of the club.
Atlantic National Bank
The nation’s economics were in sad shape in the early 1970’s with runaway interest rates and political unsettlement. Locally, forces worked against the development — for instance, the J. Turner Butler was five years behind its scheduled opening, finally opening in 1979.
Stockton was unable to secure enough money and the nation’s economic problems had banks edgy, so the lead lender, Jacksonville based, Atlantic National Bank called the note. At the time, the bank was owned and operated by the Lanes, a prominent family. It later became part of First Union, which then was acquired by Wachovia, which became part of Wells Fargo. The Atlantic National Bank is remembered today at its former headquarters at 121 East Forsyth St., in downtown Jacksonville with its name on the building and a bronze plaque.
The Developer - Arvida
Next came one of the state’s largest real estate companies, Arvida, which took over in 1977. Arvida's name is a combination of the name of one of America’s leading industrialists, Arthur Vining Davis. He was the CEO of Alcoa (itself a combination name Aluminum Company of America) and made a fortune when aluminum became less expensive to manufacture and became widely used.
Davis invested in Florida land, primarily in the southeast part of the state, and out of that came Arvida, which bought and sold real estate, and developed properties. It was started in 1958 as a public corporation with Davis retaining 60 percent of the stock. Davis died in 1962 and the company went through a series of owners, including the Penn Central Railroad and Walt Disney Productions. The name disappeared when it was purchased by the St. Joe Company, which now manages its developments as St. Joe Towns & Resorts.
Davis’s name, however, lives on in Northeast Florida. The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation is based in Jacksonville and continues to provide financial assistance to needy causes.
As with many Florida developments, the owners of Arvida, when they had made a maximum return on their investment, declared it would become an “equity” club. That meant one thing. If the members wanted to maintain the privacy of the club, they would have to buy it.
This set off a decade-long (1987-98) struggle to convert the club. The issue was money. The members had paid an initiation fee to join the club, and now Arvida asked for a $13,000 equity buyout from each of the members.
It was an unpleasant time as members were divided. It took years for everyone to come to an agreement. Happily, that agreement produced what we now have— a unique and viable club owned by its members.