Six “old Natal families” are putting up R45 million to ensure the future of the Durban Country Club. Haemorrhaging members and R30m in debt, the club’s trustees – who include Howard Buttery, Allan van der Veen and Harish Metha, with concerned “old Natal and Durban” families – have put together a “soft” loan over three years to pay off the club’s debt with Standard Bank and to make working capital available for a rescue plan.
A special meeting is scheduled for March 26, at which members are expected to approve the plan. Buttery, who stressed that the families preferred to remain anonymous, said the club had done nothing over the past three years to deserve member support and that the rescue plan would “probably see more members leaving”, but he believed the club would be a product which the people of Durban would want to support and result in “old” members flooding back within three years.
The key to the plan, he said, was the hiring of local hotelier and Federated Hospitality Association of SA regional head Gerhard Petzer to turn the club’s fortunes around. A number of former members, who would not be named, resigned their membership at the start of the year, saying that they would not pay the fees, which had almost doubled during the past 18 months.
They were doubtful that the club’s fortunes could be reversed, as it was already running at a huge loss. However, Buttery believed that the club was an asset to the city and said that a subcommittee was now established to look at “sweating the assets”.