Greg Dyke buys second luxury golf club for £7m

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The Independent Online

Greg Dyke, the director general of the BBC, has expanded his leisure business empire by buying a second luxury golf club for nearly £7m.

The purchase of the Lambourne Club, set in 180 acres of Berkshire parkland, follows his acquisition of Dartmouth Golf and Country Club in Devon.

Mr Dyke is the majority shareholder in DGCC Ltd, the company that owns and operates the Devon course and which made an operating profit of £186,315 in the financial year that ended in March 2002.

The purchase of the private members' golf club, made last month, will draw further attention to the financial affairs of the BBC director general after the controversy over his shares portfolio.

When Mr Dyke took over at the BBC in 2000, he had to sell shares in rival media companies, including a £6m stake in Granada Television, a stake of £801,750 in Pearson and shares in Trinity Mirror, United News & Media and Carlton.

John Stevens of DGCC Ltd said yesterday that Mr Dyke had played no direct role in the acquisition of the Lambourne course. Mr Stevens said: "Greg didn't visit the course, he didn't discuss it and he didn't look at any of the numbers."

Mr Dyke, who owns 77 per cent of DGCC's shares, became a director of the company in 1996, three years after making a small fortune from bonuses earned at London Weekend Television through the auction of the independent television franchises.

Mr Stevens said that Mr Dyke was sent board papers on the proposed purchase of the club but was not consulted.

In a statement yesterday, DGCC said: "Having created a high quality golf resort and membership environment in Devon, it was felt the time was right to build on this reputation and the opportunity to acquire the Lambourne Club with its strong membership culture, superb course and excellent facilities proved irresistible."

Lambourne was bought for £7.2m three years ago by an American business consortium that included Cascade, the venture capital fund owned by the Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

The golf club was put on sale after the decline in American tourism to Europe after the 11 September attacks and was sold to Mr Dyke's company for just under £7m.

His leisure empire also includes a 99 per cent stake in Vine Developments, which has a range of holiday properties in the West Country and made a pre-tax profit of £766,799 in the year to 2001.

In an interview with Sir David Frost in January 2000, Mr Dyke said that he did not have the time to run businesses. "I don't run them, there are managements that run them.The idea that I could be whipping up and down to Devon to run a golf course which I own is just not on, so I don't.''

Mr Dyke would not comment on his purchase of the Lambourne Club yesterday.