Family-owned golf resort near Lake Wales going on the auction block

A family-owned Florida golf resort, which is becoming a rarity with increasing corporate ownership, is selling out.

Lekarica Restaurant and County Inn, together with the Lekarica Hills Golf Course in Highland Park south of Lake Wales, will be sold to the highest bidder on Sept. 2.

Owned by Robert Weaver and his family, the property has been upgraded since the former potato farmer took it over in 1996.

"Our parents would like to retire, and we'd like them to retire," said Kara Goldman, one of the daughters involved in the operation. "Since taking over the business in ‘96, the family has grown. I don't want to take it over. Our parents have some other directions they want to go. It's unanimous, time for change for everybody. Everything is on a positive note."

One negative note, however, is a pending lawsuit with Highland Park, which recently banned the use of sea planes on Lake Easy. Seaplanes are a flourishing part of the Lekarica business, and the lawsuit involves jurisdiction of that part of the lake that can be used for their landing and take-off.

Both the Weaver family and auctioneer J.P. King Auction Co. of Gadsden, Ala., say the lawsuit is not part of the reason for the sale.

The auction company, noting the Weavers have invested about $4 million, said the property is sure to attract bidders.

"One thing about this is it's been operating as a successful enterprise," said auction company spokesman Carl Carter, noting the Weavers have invested about $4 million since 1996. "They've built it up and it's been a good business for them. It's got a real nice restaurant, and they've built it up into a really nice course, restored it to its former glory."

The Weavers paid $2.1 million for the property, which will be auctioned off as three different parcels: the course, the Inn and restaurant and 40 acres of developable land.

The first two sales will be "absolute," meaning they will be sold on the day of the auction to the highest bidder.

Carter said there was no way of telling what the winning bid would be.

"It's really hard to know. You just never know 'til you get to the auction day," he said. "Between now and the auction, we're advertising it widely. The last couple of weeks, we'll have it fully staffed down there so people can come out and inspect the property. A purchase like this is a major acquisition and people do their homework."

The company's biggest sale ever was the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, which sold for $27 million in the 1990s.

The Inn was built in the 1920 and was originally one of the more exclusive resorts in Florida.

Lekarica Hills Golf Course was designed and built in 1927 by Stiles and Van Kleek in the rolling terrain of the Lake Wales Ridge.

"When we took it over, there was room for growth, and there still is," Goldman said. "It was only a club operation, it was only maintained six months of the year. So it was a real process to take it over and start from scratch and build it up. We're all at the point we've taken it to a level that we're happy with, but it can go beyond, definitely. We're ready for that change to happen and for someone else to come in."

Goldman said the family planned to continue living in the area.

"Everybody is staying," she said. "We all own our own properties, we're Floridians now. We all still live in the neighborhood, we'll still be part of the community."

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