by: Holly Maynard Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After an Eyewitness News story on Tuesday about employees who say they weren't getting paid at a local golf course, Eyewitness News was inundated with emails, phone calls and text messages from people at other courses who said the same happened there. All the courses are run by The Carolina Trail, which runs seven courses in Charlotte. People who reached out to Channel 9 said employees were not paid on time and courses were going "downhill."
Eyewitness News first started investigating issues with The Carolina Trail courses in May, when a member of the Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville told us about trash that was piling up. They wondered what was going on, and neighbors near the course complained about the smell.
Then on Tuesday, six employees at Highland Creek Golf Course in north Charlotte didn't show up for work. They said they were fed up because they hadn't been paid in weeks, and that wasn't the first time it had happened.
As Eyewitness News started researching problems here, we found several articles from at least three other states that referenced similar problems with golf courses. The articles and the emails we received mentioned a man by the name of Jeff Silverstein, former chairman of the IRI Golf Group, which used to own the Carolina Trail.
That worried some members at Skybrook Golf Club in Huntersville.
"I'm concerned about the golf club. I don't know if they're going bankrupt or not," said Eric Moskowitz.
Ron Hall said, "I feel a little foolish because I did do a legacy membership and put a lot of money into the course."
Earlier this week, when Eyewitness News looked into the Carolina Trail's financial problems, we were told IRI is no longer in the picture. Instead, several entities now owned the courses. We have since learned Jeff Silverstein is connected to all of them. Now members we talked to want to know if Silverstein is a legitimate businessman.
So Eyewitness News called Silverstein. We asked him how many entities owned the courses and what they were called.
He said, "Well, there are seven different entities acknowledged, and I don't have names of all my entities."
When asked about the financial problems at the courses, Silverstein said the courses struggled from the financial crisis that hit in 2008.
"In the last 90 days, we've been able to pay off our debt at a discount similar to a short sale to where our debt on the Carolina Trail now is 50 percent or more reduced from what it was when the financial crisis hit, which gives us a much stronger capital structure which ensures the courses will be viable,” he said.
He also said all employees have now been paid, and they will continue to be.
"Going forward I do not anticipate any issues,” Silverstein said.
When asked about the articles we found mentioning similar problems reported in other states, Silverstein acknowledged that two courses in Texas went bankrupt, but he said that is two courses out of 125 courses he owned in 30 years.