What’s your Sea Island experience?

Sea Island has been a magnet for metro Atlantans for decades.

But the business that owns the resort expanded at the wrong time and has filed for bankruptcy protection.

This recession has not been kind to big dreams built on large loans.

Have you stayed on the island? What was your experience?

Own a home there?

Concerned or relieved about the new owners — investment firms Oaktree Capital Management of Los Angeles and Avenue Capital Group of New York?

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147 comments Add your comment

Winfield J. Abbe

August 11th, 2010
7:09 am

These big shots borrowed over $200 million from Synovous which was never repaid. Who do you think pays for these losses in bankruptcy at fire sale prices? No, not this company nor the operators, nor even just citizens of Georgia, but the U.S. government absorbs the losses. Synovous even received TARP money and was bailed.out.
In Georgia landlords are more strictly regulated than banks. There is virtually no state regulation of banks. And as Willie Sutton observed, “he robbed banks because that is where the money is or was”. The easiest way to rob a bank is from the inside with no force at all. Many politicians and big shots in Georgia sit on bank boards and receive some easy money loans which are never repaid and never investigated and never reported in this or any other newspaper especially the one in Athens which itself filed for bankruptcy recently too. Georgia has the largest number of failed banks in the nation but its “conservative” hypocritical politicians run their mouths against big federal government. Suppose there were no FDIC insurance fund which has been helped along to its own bankruptcy by the totally irresponsible and unconscionable lack of regulation by the State of Georgia? Who would pay or sustain such hugh losses of billions of dollars as the State is broke and wasting money on a new medical school for their friends and cronies at UGA to train a tiny group of 40 medical students at a cost of likely well over $1 million per student! The whole state of Georgia has become the “Willie Sutton” of America in 2010. They are the biggest bank robber in the world and they do it with impunity as they bite the hand which feeds them! Hypocrites All.


August 11th, 2010
7:33 am

I complained about this when the career politcos made the deal. Now, I’m vindicated but it isn’t sweet.

Visited Once

August 11th, 2010
7:49 am

I visited Sea Island for the first time last year with friends, and it was a fabulous experience. The amenities were top notch, the community was quiet, and overall it was quite a relaxing experience.


August 11th, 2010
7:51 am

Sea Island + Bill Jones = Atl Falcons + Rankin Smith
Both equal Jed Clampett

Rob Vinson

August 11th, 2010
7:53 am

I think it serves them right. They should have left well enough alone. Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in 3 generations….that is an old saying my father used to say. He was in the auction business and saw it happen to family’s like the Jones’ many times. It’s always the 3rd generation that simply runs the family business into the ground. They priced themselves out of the market and made it so the average upper middle class family couldn’t afford to go there. At the top of the pinnacle, there are only so many people who can afford to spend what the Sea Island Company wanted to stay and eat there. The only problem with that is that there is a great deal of competition for that patron / dollar. Now, the property is selling for less than half of what is owed on it and it won’t ever be the same. Change is a coming!


August 11th, 2010
7:58 am

Greed + Stupidity + Arrogance = Sea Island Company


August 11th, 2010
7:58 am

I went on a company sponsored outing to The Cloister about 15 years ago – there were roaches (no, not palmetto bugs, roaches) about 3 inches long scurrying about our room; there were employee cars parked all over the grass areas; the maids left my room unlocked and unprotected each and every day; and when I complained when I paid my bill the GM just wrote back that he “hadn’t had that many complaints in a long time” but did not offer any apology, but he did say that he had deposited my payment, nor did he thank me for my patronage.

No wonder they now are having difficulties…

Pickin Cotton

August 11th, 2010
8:00 am

Some people don’t know how to manage wealth when it is inherited and not earned.

Pickin Cotton

August 11th, 2010
8:01 am

I must have stayed in the same “Waterfront Roach Suite”!

Charlotte Reader

August 11th, 2010
8:09 am

My husband and I, along with many other friends of our generation spent our honeymoon at Sea Island 30 years ago. We returned at least 6 times after that and always had a wonderful experience. When our daughter was married last year, we planned to provide the young couple with the same wonderful honeymoon experience. Little did we realize the changes that had taken place. No longer were there honeymoon packages, the food was no longer included and the prices were outrageous. Needless to say, no one in our family will be returning there. So much for wonderful Southern charm and hospitality. Another example of the greed of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. So sorry to see it go by the wayside.

smart dawg

August 11th, 2010
8:26 am

We too have stayed at Sea Island in the past in conjunction with continuing education courses, but in recent years have stayed on St. Simons instead.
Rob Vinson said it well with his shirtsleeves comment. I would assume that state dollars built the causeway to the island. I was disgusted when I heard that a gatehouse had been built to keep riff-raff like me away from the splendor. Thank God the linger longer plan for Jekyll was stopped, or else a gatehouse on the causeway would have occurred there as well.
They wanted Sea Island to be exclusive. They didn’t want people like me. And now I should feel sympathy?
Let them eat cake.

Bill King

August 11th, 2010
8:29 am

Short but simply the truth: Just because your rich does not me you are not a Da.n IDIOT


August 11th, 2010
8:45 am

Serves them right with those hideous Cloisters commercials…wonder how many potential buyers they drove away using that woman with the overblown fake southern accent!

Susie Q

August 11th, 2010
8:50 am

The guard gate was built because a lady was raped in front of her husband in her own house on the island.

Sanquez Willing

August 11th, 2010
8:55 am

I was an employee of a Latino firm that was helping in the construction of the Cloister Hotel and Spa with all its splinder. But one thing I did notice is the arrogance of all its visiters and owners. The fact that everyday one the job there was this air of resentment for anyone of color to be on the project site! Every fast food place only hired those whom didnt reside on the Island. As well each of the employees where subject to be searched prior to addmittance to the Island or project site. The elite whom have made this home would look down their nose at each of us as to say you dont belong here nor will your presents be accepted. I say this is just what was needed to bring them around to a since of reality.


August 11th, 2010
9:10 am

Like Forrest Gump’s mama said, “Stupid is as stupid does”


August 11th, 2010
9:18 am

It is a shame that Bill Jones ruined a wonderful place to go. Nothing like blending stupidity and arrogance.


August 11th, 2010
9:21 am

Ha-ha! Bunch of arrogant, self-righteous jerks. They used their political prowess to privatize the island and build a guard gate to ‘keep the riff-raff out’, and keep Georgians off ‘their’ beaches. Glad to see you fail, S.I.C.


August 11th, 2010
9:22 am

Sanquez Willing, they looked down their noses at you because you can’t spell not because you are of color.


August 11th, 2010
9:23 am

I am saddened by all these comments resenting / attacking the affluent. The Jones family did a tremendous amount of good for Brunswick, St. Simons and the entire area. They will be missed…


August 11th, 2010
9:28 am

Bill Jones you are a sneaky money hungry one. You do not care about the employees of any of the companies you have used and then filed bankruptcy.


August 11th, 2010
9:38 am

Any company run by a simpleton named “Bill Jones” is waiting to declare bankruptcy. The Jones family raped the island and made all the people in the area think they were “conservationists”. Georgia should revoke their citizenship.

Small Businessman

August 11th, 2010
9:39 am

I worked with Bill Jones II and III. The senior was a shrewd businessman and a gentleman, the boy running it now is a stupid, spoiled brat. This is not an attack on the affluent, hell, I’m pretty well off myself and Jones II certainly was. This is an observation about an arrogant punk who ran a good company into the ground. From what I could tell, most of his Jones III’s employees felt the same way about him.

The Ghost Of Bobby Jones

August 11th, 2010
9:46 am

Sea Island was a family run resort run by the Jones family.Old man Jones would deliver towels or fix your plumbing if it broke back in the 60’s and 70’s. Shag rug, lots of sand–And always full of vacationeers. It all changed when littlle bill took over and vacationed at peeble beach.Champagne taste on the beer budget -as my dad used to say. It is digusting all the greed that has taken place between synouvous and Bill Jones Jr. Look at both of their board of directors(or the ones that have stepped down). Many islanders rely on the resort to pay their bills- hopefully some dignity can be restored to the club. As for the guard gate(fyi-smart dawg) -A little known secret is the PUBLIC post office- Go mail a letter and anyone can go right on through!


August 11th, 2010
9:47 am

Such bitterness from the blue collars who couldn’t get on to the island. Quit whining. The Company did borrow too much but who didn’t. Look at how many poor people got way too much money for the dream home they never deserved.
I had many great timea at Sea Island and feel fortunate to have lived in the area for many years. The Sea Island Company did many philanthropic things for people in the community and it is sad to think of things changing.


August 11th, 2010
9:59 am

Sea Island is a wonderful place. Bill Jones is a fumbling, arrogant idiot who ruined his family’s company! It will be just fine once it’s out of his hands.

Cumberland Raised

August 11th, 2010
10:34 am

My wife and I spent our honeymoon there in 1987. Not surprised they went belly up. If you look around Atlanta you see vacant subdivisions with vines growing up the sides and termites eating the wood floors. The big fall first then mix in with the small……..All part of the big plan to eventually bankrupt America then rebuild under a Socialist regime. Drive a few miles outside Atlanta and it is apparent we have become a third world and heading to the fourth world………..change you can believe in………Time to move to another third world and watch it move to the second world and watch America fall into total dispare


August 11th, 2010
10:43 am

I’m so grateful for Cumerland Island. This is Exactly what the Carnegie’s had the foresight to wisely avoid; the raping of a natural barrier island by greedy shortsighted developers.


August 11th, 2010
10:49 am

Like Cumberland Raised suggested, Sea Island’s bankruptcy is clearly Obama’s fault.

Crying Shame

August 11th, 2010
10:51 am

The place has not been run correctly since BJ3 forced Ted Wright into retirement ! Hired a bunch of high priced “yes” men with zero resort skills. I hope they are able to get the ship afloat. Many jobs/lives in Coastal Georgia depend on it.

Anybody read the Cigar Aficionado article on BJ3 a few years back ? Makes for good 20/20 hindsight now…..


August 11th, 2010
10:53 am

I worked for a company that did marketing for Sea Island. They were the most arrogant and unrealistic customer we have ever had. Their staff was just plain rude. We were used to demanding customers – they all are, but these folks were out of control. I guess they got what they deserved.

Longtime Relationship

August 11th, 2010
11:07 am

I have been going to Sea Island for the past 45 years. I was an employee. I have know Bill Jones III since we were kids.
I want to set a few facts straight as everyone exercises their perfect 20-20 hindsight. First and foremost, Bill III is a kind, God-fearing man who is extremely charitable and giving. And he has handled this entire affair with grace and class. Second, he and the company were faced with a decaying hotel property and Beach Club that was losing business to newer and more progressive properties. Third, they achieved tremendous success and acclaim with the rebuild of The Lodge property at their golf course complex prior to launching into the re-build of the Cloister.
Did they do everything right? No. Did they make decisions that I disagreed with? Yes. Should they have seen the recession coming? Few people did. But, at the same time, they are not evil. Instead, they are just human. They made some mistakes, and now they are suffering the consequences. I am hoping that this new step will be a good move for Sea Island, Bill Jones III, and his family. In the meantime, they will all be in my prayers.


August 11th, 2010
11:08 am

My family used to vacation at Sea Island every summer from 1982-1987, and as a child I loved it. The houses we rented were old, funky, and full of character. As an adult, I would try to drive over whenever I was in the area just to reminisce. I read how the old Cloister was torn down and rebuilt prior to the G 8 conference in 2007. I also remember hearing that a gate was put up at the entrance to keep out the general population not rich enough to rent or own on the island. It’s a shame that middle class families were basically run off the island because of a want for more money. It doesn’t seem like the same place with so many homes torn down and rebuilt. I doubt I’ll ever go back.

I’m not sure what Cumberland Raised is smoking? I guess he/she needs to take every opportunity to blame Obama for something.

Sanquez Willing-Your comments are just as ignorant. Whenever you lump a group of people together and make a generalization, you sound bitter and foolish.


August 11th, 2010
11:16 am

Bill Jones and Jimmy Blanchard from Synovus should be investigated for their shady dealings. Jones and Blanchard brought an entire company (Synovus) almost to the brink of bankruptcy (and it is still touch and go), because of this fraudulent debacle. Blanchard, the scion of banking, and Jones should be held liable.


August 11th, 2010
11:18 am

Hey Longtime Relationship.

The excesses of your boy Jones and financed by Synovus were not warranted even in the best of times, and the need for such have hurt many people. So you can save the “oh, woe is me, Bill Jones story.” He will be just fine, it is the common people that will be hurt.


August 11th, 2010
11:19 am

I feel sorry for all the home owners who bought property down there over the last ten years. They will never be able to sell for what they paid for those homes. Hopefully, they won’t need to sell. Now maybe the ones that do will get real with their prices. Most of them were overpriced teardowns on small lots. Can’t wait to see what happens to all the Ocean Forest members. To be continued……

Bobby in Smyrna

August 11th, 2010
11:30 am

I’m sorry but $400 for a room/night and $5000 for a suite per night? What are these people smoking down there? I can think of one hundred other places where’d I’d rather spend that kinda of money, and it ain’t in Georgia.


August 11th, 2010
11:33 am

Again, though it makes a great story, the gate was not built to keep the “commoner” out. The gate was built because an elderly couple was tied up in their homes, and the woman was repeatedly raped and beaten in front of her husband.

Then again, facts have never gotten in the way of a solid strawman!

old time family

August 11th, 2010
11:37 am

We had a cottage in the family for well over 50 years. We ended up selling it around 2000 right when the memberships fees were exploding. For years we enjoyed countless weeks of overjoyed family vacations. We often spent holidays and school breaks there. After hearing about the plans to tear down the cloister we became alienated and never returned. They completely disregarded any sense of loyalty to their previous members. Now all I can say is while the sale definitely bodes for change, I can only hope it teaches the new owners to cater to the customers they have, and not cast them to the side in hopes of a projected profit. Sometimes less really is more.


August 11th, 2010
11:40 am

Bill Jones is an idoit. He should be given a section 8 voucher for housing. it shows how incompetent he is.


August 11th, 2010
11:59 am

I stayed there in years past and it was old but gracious. My family stayed there for generations. We had medical meetings there. Over the last few years they priced our medical meeting so high no one could afford to stay there so we moved the meeting. The people that work there no longer know your name. Those people were laid off during the renovation. It is no longer special, now it is just another overpriced hotel.


August 11th, 2010
12:08 pm

We have spent so much time protecting and hiding the golden isles. The Sea Island Company last/late efforts to modernize it self came at a bad time with our poor economy. What hurt it the most was lack of other development among the islands. Should the state make Jekyll Island and Underground “Casino” Districts maybe people will have a reason to visit the golden isles and spawn tourism. Its a ripple effect for upper/middle tourism.

markie mark

August 11th, 2010
12:08 pm

Winfield, I think you confused the Sea Island blog with the “I am pissed at the banks ” blog….

Georgia Resident

August 11th, 2010
12:15 pm

I have been going to Sea Island since the 70s (old cogger here). And I still go. With all the new buildings, the charm has been lost. The empty condos (when entering the island) have ruined the esthetics of entering a private island (looks like just another resort area). The new beach club caters and pampers little children to an unhealthy extent. The Cloister Hotel has lost its coziness, everything it just too grandiose. The spa is magnificaent, but the cost is way too high…very few people at the spa. I really don’t give a dam if they have rare coy fish, all I want is the tranquility.

Upon my last visit, I noticed some staff (at the office & beach club)having an arrogant attitude (Bill Jones style), which I had never seen in the past 30 years. This needs to change!

Yes, I am taking my family back, but with hopes of capturing the essence of the old Sea Island. The very best is staying in one of the “old” cottages. No Tashma Hall for us.

Georgia Resident

August 11th, 2010
12:21 pm

The gate was build because of the G-8 Summit.


August 11th, 2010
12:22 pm

Mom & dad did the honeymoon thing at the Cloister in 74. We used to go every year after Christmas until New Years Day and in the summer. I used to bet with Chris Sutton on the football bowl games. I still have his Chris Name Tag I won one year. I loved the place. Attended Virginia Gunn’s wedding to the author of Sharky’s Machine. All kinds of Hollywood types were there. Mom and dad stayed in the same River House room(261)over looking the marsh for years. The Cloister sent mom and dad a Brick with a plack on it from the River House when it was torn down. Told John Portman his house didn’t belong on the island. The home was under construction. I went by to have a look. This guy was in dirty coveralls doing some work. He asked what I thought of the house. I told him it was really unique, but it just didn’t fit with the rest of the architecture on the island. He asked if I would like to go inside and look around. He gave me a tour and at the end he introduced himself. I almost swallowed my tougue. He was very nice and said he appreciated my opinion, but that I was wrong. We both laughed. We stopped going in the early 90’s because the American Plan was changed. The Cloister no longer included meals and upped the price. The Cloister killed a very good customer base. Use to love seeing THE COLONEL in his Dress Military Tux with all his medals come down for the Sunday Dinner Buffet. I loved having to wear a coat and tie to dinner and the ballroom. I learned to dance in the ballroom where they gave lessons. Horseback rides to the end of the island and a box lunch. Crabing and fishing on the dock. As a youngster the College age staff did so many fun things for the kids. I won BINGO a few times over the years. New Years Eve Midnight Raid on the kitchen was alway a blast. The Cloister just forgot what their regular customers needed and wanted. Most of the same people worked there year after year and they treated us so very nice. I miss what Sea Island and The Cloister use to be. Maybe I will have my own Tea on the Back Porch in remembrance of High Tea in the Conservatory.

markie mark

August 11th, 2010
12:26 pm

I grew up on St Simons, and actually went to college one year with BJ III. Their family has owned Sea Island since the 20’s and saved SSI from being turned into Hilton Head in the 70’s because they refused to sell land to developers. I dont know what kind of manager Bill turned out to be, but he was NOT spoiled. They had that boy out landscaping on Sea Island when he was in his teens; it was brutal, hot work. Millions of dollars have been lost in this recession, and knee jerk reactions that people were stupid, arrogant or greedy, just aint so. NO one forsaw this collapse or they would have run like hell. Bill would not have squandered his families legacy like he did had he known. That being said, nothing on St Simons or Sea Island is as welcoming as it was 25 years ago. The employees HAVE gotten arrogant. I personally saw the changes start about the time of the G8 meetings. The gate issue has been addressed, it was due to a terrible crime. But it was also used to control access to people like me who lived on St Simons and just wanted to look at the island. I understand that now, but I wouldnt have in my 20’s. And its not just the Cloister that changed; The King and Prince Hotel was sold to a Mississippi Holiday Inn chain in the 80’s, and they have totally changed it. I spent $170 in the 80’s to take my wife and stay in an oceanfront room., and the wallpaper was peeling and there was scum in the tub. I wrote the owner of the chain about my complaints….I am still waiting for the reply.

And I believe if the economy hadnt changed, the rebuild would have been profitable. Maybe you people dont know this, but some of the richest families in the nation have homes there. Bartending in the Crap Trap in 1980 and 81, I have personally waited on the Killgallons (who own Mattel), and Mrs. Sargeant whos’ husband started the flea collar industry, etc. Never forget that the Rockefellers and their friends had houses on Jekyll until the US Govt asked them to vacate in WWII so a german raiding party wouldnt land and capture them (thats why the Millionaires Village house are vacant). There is more money on Sea Island than most of you would believe, so this was not as stupid a business plan and some are saying now…..

That One

August 11th, 2010
12:33 pm

Cumberland Raised and Jason are right. Obama is responsible. Obama made Jones borrow all that money. Obama caused the Cloister to need updating. Obama made Jones put up that guard gate. Obama probably put those roaches in my room. Obama made them give me another room. Obama hates rich people so much that he made them increase the rates beyond reason. Obama is responsible for us going elsewhere with our money. Why did Obama do all this? He’s not a citizen.

markie mark

August 11th, 2010
12:35 pm

That being said….I miss the old feel like the rest of you, and feel it is a damn shame…


August 11th, 2010
12:37 pm

That One, I hope you realize I was being sarcastic.