Bermuda Billy’s last stand

 In Look back

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The late Billy Satterfield, whose partnership made more than $10 million on the Bermuda Run project near Winston-Salem, had great ambitions for his last major development, the Olde Beau golf complex near Roaring Gap. Less than two hours from Greensboro and Charlotte, the Alleghany County site offers incredible views of surrounding mountains and valleys and a hilly layout capable of challenging any golfer.

But the developer also quickly realized that it was a business mistake, telling Business North Carolina in 1992 that he regretted that his partnership had invested about $11 million (cover story, February 1992). After enduring numerous environmental and legal challenges, Satterfield sold his interests in Olde Beau to business partners in 1996. The partners, Billy Packer, 76, the famous college basketball analyst, and the late Curtis Kennington, a Charlotte real-estate investor, have kept the development going ever since. Packer’s age and Kennington’s death earlier this year played key roles in the decision to put the property up for auction that concludes Aug. 4, says Tom McInnis, chief operating officer at Iron Horse Auction Co., based in Rockingham.

The property tax value of the development is about $10.5 million, “which does not matter at this point because the auction leaves it up to the bidders to determine the dollar value,” McInnis says. The 666-acre property is being sold as an ongoing operation, including a par 72, 18-hole course. The complex also includes banquet facilities, five partially built homes and condominiums, residential lots and undeveloped land. Property listings show homes in the area for sale ranging from $160,000 to $439,000.

Satterfield was one of the most colorful developers in state history. The son of an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. pipe fitter, he dropped out of high school, served in the Navy and worked as a plumber before starting a homebuilding business in the early 1950s. He became one of Winston-Salem’s most prolific homebuilders and retail-center developers, his brash approach contrasting with the city’s gentlemanly business leaders who ran R.J. Reynolds, Wachovia and Hanes. His big hit came in 1971 when Bermuda Run opened as one of the state’s first golf course housing developments. Satterfield, who once had a 5 handicap, purchased the land for $1,000 per acre and sold 175 lots at $10,000 each within eight weeks. “Arnold Palmer took the first lot, and Bermuda Country Club was born,” according to the town’s website.

Satterfield sold his Winston-Salem investments and moved to Florida in the mid-1980s, but came back to North Carolina when he learned that the Reynolds family was selling the land that is now Old Beau. At the site, which was named after his English bulldog, Satterfield butted heads with state and local environmental officials and neighbors over accusations that the construction was polluting nearby streams. “There’s no one in western North Carolina as infamous as Mr. Satterfield,” environmental leader Bill Holman told BNC in 1992.

Satterfield didn’t get to see Olde Beau’s fate pan out over the last decade. The tenacious real-estate developer died in 2005 at age 76. Now Olde Beau’s future lies in the hands of its highest bidder, whose identity wasn’t known at press time. (Check BusinessNC.com for an update.)

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