Interview with Vigo Carlund, President of Los Naranjos GC
We had the opportunity of speaking with our President, Mr. Vigo Carlund and to understand his thoughts during this crisis.
There is no replacement for experience during these times, we are therefore delighted to share his thoughts with you.
Stay safe good people, we shall soon be reunited at our home from home.
KEN – For those that don’t know, tell us a little of your background and what must have been a great experience to have worked so closely with the pioneering Jan Stenbeck, who sadly died at a relatively young age and the Kinnevik Group.
VIGO – I worked within the Kinnevik group basically all my business life, starting out in export sales from 1968 and then I held various CEO positions in Sweden and the US between 1976-2006, and finished off as CEO for Kinnevik. I then continued with various Chairman/Board assignments within the Group until 2015. My last position within Corporate life ended in 2018. One interesting thing is that one of the guys I worked with for 12 years, Jan Petterson and his wife Kerstin are now members of Los Naranjos and one of my old customers Bror Lövbrand and his wife Yvonne are also members. It is a small world.
I did work closely with Jan Stenbeck and that was an experience, I once told him without getting fired, that he was “like the USA” in that he had the best and worst of everything. He was truly a great entrepreneur, but also a great risk taker, and that brought us into financial problems in 1992 and 2002. Fortunately, we got through that and his legacy is still intact. You learn more during hard times than good times and one thing I have learned is the importance of cash flow.
KEN – Before asking about the crisis and it’s direct effect upon our Club, you have experienced a number of different crisis’, how do you view this one.
VIGO – This is so different from anything that I have been through previously and much worse since this time it is not just money but it’s lives that are at stake. I believe the effects will last longer then the financial crisis in 2008-2009, as I fear that many countries with large debts will have a hard time handling a lot of bankruptcies and if they have a weak bank system such as Italy, it will lead to a significant problem for the EU.
KEN – We have now had the chance to see how various countries are dealing with this crisis. There is a marked difference with how Sweden and Spain are reacting. Who is right.
VIGO – At this stage it is impossible to say who is right or wrong, but I believe there is also a difference in attitude between Spain and Sweden. In Sweden, people trust to a large extent, the Government and their experts, when the Government “recommends” something most people follow this to the letter. There are in both countries some steps that surprises me, in Sweden they allowed initially crowds up to 500 and then reduced it to 50, that to me seems excessive and dangerous. However, I do believe that the restrictions in Spain in not allowing people to take a walk and keep the social distance is too harsh, I even think, like in Sweden, golf would have been ok with certain restrictions, such as only one person in the buggy, fewer starting times and strict control in social distancing. To be locked in your home all the time will inevitably have negative effects on people. A year from now we might be able to tell who’s actions were the right ones.
KEN – What brought you to Spain and Los Naranjos Golf Club?
VIGO – Having lived in California for a long time, we wanted to continue to live in a place in the sun. A friend of mine, Örjan Enström, convinced me that Marbella was the right location. He was a member at another club, but when I told him that then I could join his club he said “absolutely no!! You should join Los Naranjos because they have more fun.” He was absolutely right!!
KEN – You have been President at Los Naranjos Golf Club for 12 years now and will have seen significant changes during this time.
VIGO – There have been constant improvements at the Club, both with regards to facilities and course during these years. This of course is necessary, as the competition is getting stiffer every year. When I joined, the focus was primarily on attracting green fee players, but over the years we are now really focusing of getting a better balance and to increase the number of members and shareholders. In times like these, happy and loyal members are a more reliable base to stand on. We are very thankful to them and our tenants. All the Club’s Owners are businessmen and know that a dedicated entrepreneur is hard to beat, and we are pleased with the way we co-operate with all our tenants.
KEN – We as a Club have undergone a number of crisis’ in recent years. The restaurant occupation, two episodes of unprecedented weather and with it terrible flooding. Now we must endure the COVID-19 virus. We have proved to be a resilient Club, underpinned by supportive Owners with a long term view and an Operations team that through expertise, enthusiasm and commitment seem to always rise to the occasion. I am sure you will agree, that this is on every level, is by far the most challenging crisis. Do you feel as I do, that we are in a position to “ride the storm” and return in good shape?
VIGO – Yes I do. We have during my time as President, had to face some difficulties. Right of the bat it started with the financial crisis in 2008, which hit Spain and the Club very hard. There was huge pressure on the then new Owners, but they fought it out and I believe we came out stronger on the other side. Even during those years we did not sacrifice any investments in the Club. Then a couple of years ago we had a very bad situation with the restaurant when the then tenant refused to leave. This meant a lot of extra expenses with the temporary facility for the restaurant that we had install and the difficulties that the staff had to face, but in my opinion they upheld the service quite well. That time was also tough for Christian Andersen the Hacienda restaurant owner, as they were just about to take over the tenancy. Despite this upheaval, the situation was resolved. The terrible rains and flood that we had some years ago also put a strain on Borja and his crew but they handled it well, just like they are doing right now in maintaining the course in top condition so that we all can enjoy first class playing conditions as soon as we are allowed to open.
I am confident that we as you say, “will ride the storm” even though the effects of the virus will last for many months, since people are afraid of booking trips etc for the summer with the uncertainty that exists. We entered this situation in a rather good shape after a couple of good years and despite using the excess operational funds for reinvestments in the Club we were prudent in having a relatively good cash situation. That said, we have significant expenses and we can not shut down everything, we have to maintain our course and the buildings, pay the taxes, contribute to our employees etc. However the club is in good financial standing and I am convinced that we will beat this beast as well.
KEN – To end, this is a two part question. When we emerge from this crisis, people will surely have a much changed attitude to their work/life balance. Do you think this will encourage more people to invest in themselves and their leisure time, in particular golf? Secondly, it is our stated aim to create the finest environment for our Members and Shareholders. Why would you recommend joining Los Naranjos Golf Club?
VIGO – There is no better way to invest in yourself than in golf! After this crisis I am convinced that we will all appreciate how fortunate we are at Los Naranjos, to have good friends that enjoy a round together with and at the same time get some exercise. That is why golfers live longer! We have in my opinion a camaraderie at Los Naranjos that is second to none. It is a home away from home, you can always go down to the Club, find a friend to play with or to have a coffee or beer. When I joined, it took no time at all to really feel at home and I hope all new and old members feel the same. We will continue to improve everything about Los Naranjos and with your help Ken we will find many new members both young and a bit older so that we for years to come can continue to enjoy our friendly Club.