Golf course design is one of the great, unsung American art forms. And so the existence of nearly unseen private golf courses always spark rumours and envy, the way tales of hidden Vatican art hordes inspire conspiracy theories.
For years the tales of private golf courses owned by financial firms have floated around. The most famous one was Morefar Back O’Beyond, which was supposedly operated for the benefit of AIG executives. We confirmed its existence a few years ago when a young lady we know was asked to play a round. She returned with tales of a beautifully designed course that was less packed than any country club course she’d ever seen. It was located on 500 acres just an hour’s north of New York City.
Now the bailout of AIG has many questioning why these kind of luxuries should be permitted. If Morefar is owned by AIG, shouldn’t it be opened to the public now that taxpayers own most of the equity in the fallen insurance giant? Should it be sold to raise money for AIG to pay back its debt?
At the heart of all these questions however isn’t really a desire to raise the millions that could be raised against the hundreds of billions AIG owes. As with the bonus outrage, what’s really going on is outrage that such spectacular failure can still be accompanied by a life of wealth and luxury. There’s something that simply grates against our moral sense when executives at companies that needed billions of dollars from people who are not wealthy continue to live better than the rest of us.
That’s why it probably doesn’t matter that the New York Times discovered the AIG golf course isn’t actually owned by AIG. It was opened in 1964 by Cornelius Vander Starr, who in 1919 founded the company later known as AIG. It’s now owned by Starr International, the company now controlled by Hank Greenberg, the former AIG CEO. The exact relationship of Starr and AIG has always been a bit mysterious. According to a spokesperson, the two were sister companies but are no longer.
For now, it seems like Morefar will remain in private hands.
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