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Becoming A Leader In
World-Class Private Clubs
MaY 20, 2024

Southworth has built a reputation as a different kind of club developer and operator. The company grew out of a bold vision: create inclusive private clubs where all were welcomed equally and the quality of experience of service stood above all else. For more than three decades, this has guided our growth and contributed to our success—unwavering in the face of multiple challenges and changes. Here is a look back at how we became the company we are today. 

In 1991, developer David Southworth joined forces with Paul Fireman, of Reebok International fame, to create Willowbend Development. Willowbend’s first project is its namesake private club. Opening in 1992, Willowbend on Cape Cod received widespread acclaim. Heralded as a club that’s truly “for everyone,” Willowbend broke with tradition in many ways and positioned itself solidly as a place where the quality of the experience is what matters, rather than the archaic rules and stuffy environments that were standard at many clubs. 

Throughout the 1990s, the company gained strength through acquisition and development. Willowbend Development joined with Tishman to acquire and develop the Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort in Puerto Rico. Endowed with an amazing beach and pool area, luxe hotel rooms and two championship golf courses. It opened in 1996 to great fanfare, as representatives from the government of Puerto Rico and other dignitaries gathered to commemorate the debut of the island’s most luxurious new resort property. From day one, the resort attracted discerning travelers from around the world. Just three years later, Ocean Villas opened. This 113-unit condominium project, adjacent to The Westin Rio Mar, added to Rio Mar’s momentum and cemented its spot as the place to live and visit in Puerto Rico. 

The company also grew its golf chops during this decade. Willowbend Development acquired national brokerage and consulting firm Golf Realty Advisors. The move added to Willowbend’s expertise across a wide range of businesses and brings new capabilities to the Willowbend Development team. Fresh off the heels of this acquisition, the company won the rights to acquire and develop Liberty National Golf Club on New York Harbor. This prestigious property, which has since hosted multiple PGA Tour events, sits within sight of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. 

In the new millennium, following a decade in business as a resort golf development company, others were taking notice of the success of Willowbend Development and desired to avail themselves of our services. We soon added to our capabilities the management of upscale golf resorts on behalf of other owners. 

The 2000s also brought major leadership changes to the company. In 2005, Paul Fireman took a step towards retirement, Willowbend Development was split between David Southworth and Paul, and is renamed Southworth Development. A year later, David Southworth’s longtime friend, Joe Deitch, joined Southworth Development as Chairman and Co-Owner. This was a major inflection point for the company. Joe is known for true visionary leadership, as Founder and Chairman of Commonwealth Financial Network, America’s largest independent broker-dealer firm currently managing roughly $300 billion in assets. 

This decade was also a time that Southworth Development was intensely focused on strengthening its portfolio. That meant divesting some properties and looking to new opportunities. In 2006, after launching the resort and 12 hugely successful years in which it became the crown jewel of the burgeoning resort scene in Puerto Rico, Southworth sold The Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort. A year later, the company sold its half-interest in the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, which it had acquired in 1999. This previously failed property had completed a four-year turnaround plain and the sale capitalized on its enormous success. 

The last half of the decade brought a rapid-fire series of acquisitions. The company purchased a controlling interest in Meredith Bay, a 600-unit resort-style gated community on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. The community offers stunning views of the lake and area mountains, along with room for considerable new development. Southworth was hired to construction-manage and operate a new golf resort on Scotland’s southwest coast—The Village at Machrihanish Dunes, consisting of Machrihanish Dunes Golf Club, The Ugadale Hotel and Cottages, The Royal Hotel, and five food and beverage outlets. In short order, ownership was assumed.Southworth Development purchased Renaissance Golf Club (now just “Renaissance”), a private golf club featuring an acclaimed Brian Silva Signature golf course in Haverhill, Mass. It later added an award-winning clubhouse and a range of other first-class amenities. In the last purchase of the decade,Southworth Development acquired Creighton Farms, a 964-acre luxury residential club community located in the rolling hills of horse country in Aldie, Va., just west of Washington, D.C. The property features an award-winning Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. 

Big changes kept coming in the twenty-tens. In 2012, Southworth Development came home again—purchasing Willowbend, the renowned Cape Cod club community where David Southworth got his start, from Paul Fireman. New amenities and new real estate offerings are soon to be added to the community, which has since its inception been one of New England’s most acclaimed club communities. In 2014, in partnership with a consortium of club members and residents, Southworth acquired The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, a private international sporting club located on Great Abaco Island in The Bahamas, from the Marriott Corporation. Just three years later, full ownership was assumed. The Club hosted the first of several PGA Tour events, The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, which is won in its inaugural year by Andrew Landry. 

Then, in 2019, childhood friends Matt Deitch and Tommy Southworth took on day-to-day leadership of Southworth Development as Managing Principal and President/COO, respectively. Soon after, Joe Deitch acquired 100% ownership of Southworth Development, and continues to serve as company Chairman. Today, with their collective vision strongly at the helm, the company is forging a new path in the private club industry—continuing a legacy started by David Southworth more than three decades ago. 

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