Equestrian mogul Mark Bellissimo is adding to his treasure chest of Wellington properties with what is likely his most expensive purchase since he first bought the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, The Palm Beach Post has learned.
Bellissimo’s company — Wellington Equestrian Partners — reached an agreement to buy the International Polo Club from a trust affiliated with imprisoned polo mogul John Goodman.
Bellissimo would not disclose the price but said he expects to close on the venue in late April.
“We made a decision that we wanted to make sure that IPC and the equestrian venue would continue long into the future,” Bellissimo said, adding that the company will be making a “significant reinvestment” into the venue.
The deal includes the surrounding properties and totals about 248 acres. The Palm Beach County property appraiser values the land and the buildings $33.4 million, but the sale price will likely be higher because of the value of the business.
The private trust that was made for the imprisoned polo mogul’s children is being run by his ex-wife Isla Carroll Reckling and has been unloading properties recently such as the Wanderers Club and the Executive Course. The owners had been taking bids for the property electronically.
This is almost certainly the largest sale to date.
The club includes nine polo fields, an Olympic-sized pool, tennis courts, a restaurant and a main stadium that holds more than 1,500 people.
For Bellissimo, this sale gives him control of the three major equestrian venues in Wellington: Show jumping at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, dressage at Equestrian Village and now polo at the International Polo Club.
He has been snapping up properties throughout the preserve but said this could be the last piece.
“I believe we now have all the resources to make Wellington one of the great equestrian venues in the world,” Bellissimo said.
Ron Allen, a former polo broadcaster for ESPN International, said it will likely be a positive for the sport in Wellington.
“This is good news for the entire polo community,” Allen said in a statement. “The change should bring about a better direction for the club and for high goal polo. Bellissimo’s track record has been highly successful. I’m very excited to see what the future brings.”
Bellissimo hopes to continue a strong relationship with the United States Polo Association moving forward and has a contract for services through 2018. Wellington Equestrian Partners will still own the venue, and USPA will run the programs.
He’s had talks about creating fall and spring polo seasons to expand the footprint of what’s done on the fields.
The new owner equates the investment to when he bought PBIEC in 2006. That venue was losing money like the Polo Club is now, he said, and he saw potential to make it profitable again.
Bellissimo has said that he wouldn’t put more money into his Wellington ventures until there was a change in leadership in the council.
He had butted heads consistently with the previous boards, but Tuesday the two candidates he backed secured their seats. Bellissimo had already been in talks about buying the Polo Club, but said the election strengthened his decision.
Goodman opened the International Polo Club in 2002 to give his team, Isla Carroll Polo, a world-class facility. There is no indication that Goodman, who was twice sentenced to 16 years in prison for the DUI manslaughter death of Scott Patrick Wilson, is involved with the potential sale.
Goodman is at the Wakulla Annex of the Wakulla Correctional Institution, a faith- and character-based facility within Florida’s prison system. He had transferred to Wakulla just before the new year from the Madison Correctional Institution.
Wilson drowned in a Wellington canal after Goodman ran a stop sign and hit Wilson’s Hyundai.
The 17-week polo season this year began on Jan. 3, and will conclude on April 24 with the USPA 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship.
William T. “Bill” Ylvisaker initially brought polo to Wellington, founding the Palm Beach Polo & Country Club in 1977.
Bellissimo also bought the Wanderers Club on Aero Club Drive this year for $6,865,000, according to property records. The sale represented a sizable loss for the trust, which paid $9 million for the property in 2005 then put millions into upkeep and improvements.
That purchase gave Bellissimo more property near the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The Wanderers Club is an 18-hole golf course that also has tennis, fitness and restaurants.
The trust also sold the Wanderer’s Executive Course for $1 million to a company affiliated with Ward Real Estate this past year.
Bellissimo’s Wellington empire
With his purchase of the International Polo Club, mogul Mark Bellissimo now owns three major equestrian venues in Wellington.
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center — Bellissimo’s first purchase in Wellington in 2006, PBIEC, is now home to the Winter Equestrian Festival each year.
Equestrian Village — The 59 acres at the corner of Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard was transformed into a dressage venue.
International Polo Club — The newest addition is the premier winter polo venue in Wellington. Bellissimo hopes to add spring and fall seasons.