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Trump agrees to buy Fresno golf course

'They ran out of a thing called money, so I bought it,' the developer says of the $40-million Running Horse deal.

June 28, 2007|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

Donald Trump -- as in Trump Tower, Trump Entertainment and Trump Organization -- announced Wednesday that he's purchased a bankrupt golf course in Fresno -- as in Fresno, Calif.

Culminating weeks of sometimes public, on-again, off-again negotiations, "The Donald" said he'd pay $40 million for the Running Horse golf course. Its previous developers completed only two holes before they were swamped by financial problems.

"They ran out of a thing called money," Trump said in a telephone interview, "so I bought it."

The billionaire developer said his interest was drawn to the property because it was slated to host a Professional Golfers' Assn. tournament next year. Local officials expressed hope that, with the approval of a bankruptcy judge, the course would be completed and the show would go on, as scheduled, in 2008.

"Trump really believes in Fresno," Mayor Alan Autry said. "The impact of this thing will be just enormous."

Trump plans to build 800 homes around the golf course. He said he even has his eye on improving a down-and-out area of southwest Fresno for a mile on all sides of Running Horse. The details are yet to come, he said, but, with the understatement that has endeared him to millions of TV viewers, he predicted success:

"With Trump, the area and the project have great potential," he said. "Without Trump, no comment."

Trump said he signed a letter of intent for the purchase early Wednesday morning. It calls for an upfront payment of $25 million to owner Mick Evans and an additional $15 million from future profits.

Trump, the developer of Atlantic City casinos and other properties, owns six other golf courses, including links in the Caribbean and Scotland as well as Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, which Golf Digest has described as "the stretch limo of golf courses."

He acknowledged that Fresno, the down-home heart of a huge agricultural region, isn't exactly the kind of swank venue to which he has become accustomed.

"It should be an interesting combination," he said.

Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson said he was "honored" to deal with Trump and his team.

While some neighborhood residents are wary about being displaced by the upscale project, others have sent Trump encouraging e-mails and even boxes of fruit, Larson said.

"We'll be talking about a whole new city," Larson said. "He says it'll be a first-class development."

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steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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