Shafted! Golfers “stabbed in the back” by Master of Clare College
Lord Grabiner, Clare’s Master, is helping a top British golf club evict its old members and charge a £100,000 fee to rejoin
Clare’s illustrious barrister-cum-golfer Master is in the national press and it’s not good. He’s been a really bad sport, apparently, having got himself embroiled in what is fast becoming the golfing world’s biggest controversy: the future of Wentworth.
Wentworth is one of the most exclusive and historic golf clubs in the country. It boasts the headquarters of the PGA European Tour and each year hosts the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship – €5,000,000 prize money and all.
Ownership of the club has just been transferred to Reignwood, a Chinese conglomerate with big ambitions for Wentworth. Unfortunately for current players, these new plans aren’t from Mao’s Little Red Book. Far from it: Reignwood want to slash the number of members from 4,000 to 800 and introduce a £100,000 joining fee.
Lord Grabiner, who is an honorary member of the club, has been hired by Reignwood to advise on the matter, The Telegraph has revealed. He has declared that such a move was legal.
Grabiner’s collaboration with Reignwood was not expected by members – not on the scorecard, you might say – and has driven a wedge between between Club veterans, many of whom think Grabiner should not be taking sides as an honorary member.
Michael Fleming, Wentworth’s captain, told The Telegraph: “I feel stabbed in the back by Lord Grabiner. You don’t expect an honorary member to draw up legal advice to evict all the members who have provided everything for him.”
Lord Grabiner denied he had betrayed his duties to members: “I was a non-executive director of Wentworth when it was owned by Richard Caring [the previous owner] and when he decided to sell to the Chinese company obviously the board resigned, including me.
“After the sale went through I was instructed as a lawyer to advise them on aspects of the structure they were proposing, which I have done.”
“I was just giving professional advice. My personal views are not relevant. They [the members] just don’t like the advice and I understand that.”
A glance at Grabiner’s personal views indeed reveals quite a different picture – the exclusivity of Wentworth is certainly a far-cry from his stated aims as Master of Clare College. Commenting on his election in December 2013, he emphasised he “especially” wanted to ensure “that the college remains accessible to students of all social backgrounds.”
The Foreign Secretary and local MP, Phillip Hammond, has also protested the plans but, like Grabiner, has conceded the legal case is quite unambiguously in Reignwood’s favour.
The Tab speculates it is unlikely Clare will follow Reignwood’s example. As for the golfers, let’s hope there’s a fairway forward.