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Maui Land ending golf operations

Arizona firm Troon Golf will assume management of two Kapalua courses beginning on April 1

By Andrew Gomes

LAST UPDATED: 3:01 a.m. HST, Feb 1, 2011

A little more than a year after exiting the pineapple business, Maui Land & Pineapple is on the verge of ceasing another operation: golf.

The company will quit running the two golf courses at Kapalua Resort on April 1, and yield management to Arizona firm Troon Golf, which operates about 150 courses around the world.

About 100 employees — half of Maui Land's work force — will lose their jobs as part of the change. However, Troon hopes to hire the whole lot.

"It is our desire to transition all of the current Maui Land & Pineapple associates to our Troon Golf employment platform," said Mike Ryan, Troon's senior vice president of operations. "We certainly recognize the rich tradition that has been developed at Kapalua over the years, and it is our goal to continue to provide this same high-quality experience for all of the guests and employees."

Troon is an operator of upscale golf courses in 23 countries. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based firm entered the Hawaii market last year, assuming operations of the Makai Golf Club at Princeville Resort on Kauai.

Kapalua Resort is well-regarded for its golf. Of the two championship courses, the Plantation Course hosted the first event of this year's PGA season, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, last month.

The opening to manage the two Kapalua courses was created by Maui Land's need to pay off debt. Maui Land sold the two courses for a combined $74 million over the last two years to an affiliate of Japan-based retailer Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., with agreements to lease back and manage the properties until March 31.

TY Management Corp., the Fast Retailing affiliate, retained Troon.

"We hope it is a seamless transition," said Tim Esaki, Maui Land's chief financial officer.

The loss for Maui Land will represent another drastic cut for the company that just a few years ago had more than 1,000 employees and was one of Maui's largest employers.

A little more than a year ago, Maui Land had 624 employees, but that was cut to 206 at the end of 2009 when the company stopped farming pineapple and made other cuts in land development and other areas in efforts to stem financial losses.

Earlier job cuts primarily from scaling back pineapple operations and outsourcing resort operations had reduced Maui Land's payroll from about 1,000 employees in 2007. In 2000, about 1,900 people were employed by Maui Land.

Maui Land's primary business today is developing and operating Kapalua Resort, which occupies a portion of 22,000 acres in West Maui owned by the company.

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