Article Courtesy of The Palm
By Alexandra Clough
Published January 7, 2019
lawsuit claims Jack Nicklaus improperly fired members of a property association
board and saddled residents of his Jupiter golf community with extra maintenance
The year is new, the weather is warm, and
the greens are pristine over at the Bear’s Club, a Jupiter
golf course community built by golf great Jack Nicklaus.
But for some residents of this luxury enclave, life is not
Some are angry at the way Nicklaus is running the community,
which is home to numerous professional athletes including
NBA great Michael Jordan and pro golfer Michelle Wie.
Through the years, more of the cost of maintaining the
community has shifted to the homeowners from the golf club,
with no say from the homeowners, according to a lawsuit
filed last month by a Bear’s Club resident.
The final straw was a decision on Nov. 2 by Nicklaus to
fire homeowner Gary L. Sellers as association board president and install
his own people on the board, “as retaliation” for disagreements about the
way the association was being run, the lawsuit said.
The dispute could seem like any other homeowners association battle, except
this one features very wealthy residents against a developer who has won the
most majors of any golfer — and who regularly hits the links with President
Donald Trump when he is town.
The Bear’s Club community, east of Interstate 95 just north of Donald Ross
Road, was created in 1999. It features an 18-hole golf course and a
40,000-square-foot clubhouse. The 400-acre community consist of about 80
homes, villas and cottages, with average home values in the millions of
dollars, according to the lawsuit.
In a letter Jack Nicklaus sent to residents on Nov. 6, he defended his
decision to fire the old board and appoint a new one. Nicklaus said he
wanted the Bear’s Club to avoid the disputes that afflict other residential
communities, and that’s why the the property association gave the club
majority voting power, to resolve disputes and “refuse coercion.”
The golf club is not owned by the residents or the property association,
Nicklaus wrote. Instead, it is owned by 35 founding partners. As such,
Nicklaus wrote that the Bear’s Club is not a typical residential golf
community but a golf club where a small number of properties “bask in the
glory of adjacency to a spectacular golf facility.”
Nicklaus’ imperious tone upset many residents, said Boca Raton lawyer
Spencer Sax, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Bear’s Club homeowner David
Nissen and other residents.
Nicklaus’ letter “sets Nicklaus up as the king and residents should be lucky
they are his minions,” Sax said. “But it’s not OK for Jack to eliminate the
old board and install people who are affiliated with him, or who work for
The five-person board now features Nicklaus’ son, Gary, as well as Bear’s
Club general manager Bob Weselman, who was named president of the
association even though he doesn’t live there. In fact, according to the
complaint, of the five people on the board, only Gary Nicklaus lives in the
community, and he’s been trying to sell his home for years.
In his letter, Nicklaus wrote that membership in the club “is not a right
but a privilege” by people who must respect “the need to abide by rules of
Sax said residents fear if they challenge Nicklaus further on their own,
they will be banned from the club. That is why they are seeking help from
On Dec. 27, Nissen sued the Bear’s Club Property Owners’ Association, GBR
Properties Ltd., Golden Bear Properties Ltd., The Bear’s Club Founding
Partners Ltd. and other related entities in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit was filed by Nissen individually and on behalf of the homeowners
as a member’s derivative lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to force the Bear’s Club
homeowners association to turn control of the association over to the
homeowners, as required by Florida law; and to recoup assessments improperly
paid by the homeowners for the care of the community, a figure described as
millions of dollars in the complaint.
The lawsuit also seeks the appointment of a receiver for the association to
protect the interests of the homeowners, pending a court determination on
Nicklaus could not be reached for comment, and an email to a spokesman said
the office was closed for the holiday season. Efforts to reach a lawyer for
the Nicklaus companies were not successful.
In the letter to residents, Nicklaus said people who bought at Bear’s Club
knew what they were signing on to when they bought their homes and read and
accepted the Declaration of Master Covenants.
But Sax said the declaration violates Florida law, specifically Chapter 720
of the Florida Statutes, which requires that homeowners have control over
the governance of their community association.
The Bear’s Club recently was in the news over a failed effort to swap
habitat land on a conservation easement it owns, in exchange for a $1
million contribution to a fund that maintains the county’s natural areas.
The Bear’s Club wanted to build more homes on the 15-acre easement, but a
public uproar halted the effort in October.