November 2, 2020 - 11:00am

By Catherine Leffert – Staff Writer, Dallas Business Journal

Arcis Golf, the second-largest owner and operator of courses in the U.S., announced last week it has entered an investment partnership with Atairos, a firm that will acquire a substantial ownership position in the company.

Arcis CEO Blake Walker said he’ll continue to run the company, but will work closely with Atairos and previous central financial backers Fortress Investment Group, who will maintain a “significant” ownership in the company.

Walker declined to share how much stake Atairos will hold in Arcis, but the investment firm will have two representatives on the Arcis board, of which Walker serves as chair. Two representatives from Fortress Investment Group will also serve on the board.

Arcis began as a startup six years ago, and has grown to operate more than 60 private and public golf clubs and resorts across 13 states, and employs more than 5,000 people. Atairos is “focused on supporting growth-oriented businesses,” according to its website.

Walker emphasized that with this partnership, Arcis will remain hyper- focused on its four pillars — health and wellness, experiential dining, lifetime sports and arts and entertainment.

The Dallas Business Journal spoke with Walker about the latest infusion of capital, and his plans for the company:

How did this investment come to be with Atairos?

I founded Arcis about six years ago and we created a startup. In the past six years, my financial partners have been Fortress Investment Group and they've been a phenomenal partner and, quite frankly, to seed me as a startup, took a risk on this platform that I'm certainly very grateful for. We got to a point and in terms of size and scope that we began thinking about other strategic partners.

At Atairos, the principles there have significant experience in golf and content creation, media and leisure. It was an excellent opportunity to partner with them. We look at the next five or 10 years of this platform because we're in a very different cycle now. We've gone from zero dollars in revenue to the second-largest owner and operator of golf courses. For us, to look at a more diversified platform or lifestyle centric going forward, it makes sense to bring in a partner like Atairos as well.

What do you hope to come of this investment?

I fully expect us to grow both organically and inorganically and double in size over the next five years.

How has Arcis been throughout the past seven or eight months with COVID-19?

We've actually become more efficient in times like this. Things happen in real-time on a daily basis as it relates to the consumer. Our ability to proactively address issues more quickly from an infrastructure standpoint, from a virtual content standpoint our content has become appreciably better. The way we service our customers is obviously different in this environment.

This interview is edited for brevity and clarity.