After four decades, Walt Disney World is getting out of the golf business.
The giant resort said Wednesday it has struck a 20-year-deal to turn over its five golf courses to a group headlined by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer. The move pairs Disney World's courses with one of golf's best-recognized brand names while also allowing the resort step back from a business that has become less attractive amid competition from a glut of new courses built during the housing bubble.
Under the deal, Arnold Palmer Golf Management will take over day-to-day operations of each of Disney World's golf courses: Palm, Magnolia, Lake Buena Vista, Osprey Ridge and Oak Trail. Financial terms weren't disclosed, though the Palmer group will make annual lease payments to Disney and split revenue earned from the courses with the resort.
Roughly 330 Disney employees will be impacted by the move. Disney said each will be offered other jobs, at comparable pay, elsewhere at the resort.
For Disney, a key attraction is the involvement of Palmer, considered one of the greatest players in the history of professional golf. The resort is banking on the association with Palmer to help set its courses apart in a crowded marketplace and lure more golfers who may have ignored Disney World in the past.
"This deal would not have gotten done if it had not been for Mr. Palmer's engagement and his desire to associate his brand with the Disney brand," said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises.
As part of the deal, Palmer will personally oversee a redesign of Disney's Palm course. The renovation isn't likely to be complete until at least 2013.