The Riviera Country Club & Tennis Club, once a favorite haunt of early Hollywood film stars, entered a new era of foreign ownership Sunday with the transfer of full ownership of the landmark 168-acre resort to Marukin Shoji Co. of Japan.
The change of ownership Sunday--considered a lucky day in Japan--was uneventful compared to the disclosure last spring that Laaco Ltd. was selling the club to a mystery Japanese buyer for $108 million. The secrecy sparked criticism and concern among some Riviera club members. As a result, Marukin scaled back and bought only a 49% interest a year ago but was given an option to buy the remaining interest in a year.
Marukin, which acquired the remaining 51% for $55.08 million cash, appears to have placated those concerns among members by hosting get-acquainted receptions like that held Sunday after the formal completion of the sale.
"We have contacted the membership to assure them that we do not intend to change the basic policies of either the country club or the tennis club," said Noboro Watanabe, senior managing director of Marukin. "We purchased the clubs because of their fine reputation and high caliber of members. We issued the statement last year saying there will be no assessments or additional initiation fees, nor is it our wish to inflate the membership." He said the club plans improvements in both the golf and tennis clubs.
"We have enjoyed our association with Marukin," said Frank G. Hathaway, managing partner of Laaco, "and we wish them well in this new chapter of Riviera's history."
Hathaway's grandfather Frank A. Garbutt founded the Riviera in 1927. It was a favorite hangout for film stars Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Errol Flynn. Today, it is the site of the annual Los Angeles Open Golf Tournament, known to golfers around the world.
Laaco's ownership of the Los Angeles Athletic Club and the California Yacht Club continues unchanged.