Hall, sold: Richmond magnate buys Keswick resort and club
The owner of Keswick Hall will move on down the rails, as parent company Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. is selling to Richmond-based businessman and philanthropist William H. "Bill" Goodwin Jr., who already owns his hometown's luxurious Jefferson Hotel, Nashville's Hermitage, and such South Carolina luxury outposts as Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head and The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island.
The announcement of the sale, which is slated to close later this month, came in an email message to club members on Thursday, January 5. The identity of the buyer came from reliable sources.
A graduate of the Darden School, Goodwin is no stranger to Charlottesville, having served two terms on the UVA Board of Visitors and chaired the board of the Darden School, the latter of which has its grounds named for him. Additionally, Goodwin's physician daughter, Molly, is married to current BOV member and Charlottesville business executive Robert Hardie.
Keswick Hall is an upscale facility in the equestrian country east of Charlottesville that has, in recent years, become a major destination for weddings. The site includes an 18-hole golf course, five lighted tennis courts, three pools (including an infinity pool that looks out on a sweeping vista). Overnight guests have the use of the spa in the Keswick Club.
A recent online check showed nightly rates of $195 to $540. Both the hotel and its restaurant, Fossett's, have received the coveted four diamond designation from AAA. In November, Condé Nast Traveler magazine named Keswick Hall America's best small resort for the second year in a row.
Getting to such an illustrious point, however, has involved no shortage of heartache. As the sidebar attests, many fortunes and several lives have been lost in the pursuit of profit or pleasure at the estate originally known as Villa Crawford.
Built by a youthful UVA alumnus, just six years out of college and using money from his wife in 1912, the Tuscan-styled Villa Crawford originally featured a columned porte-cochère. The porte-cochère was removed in one of the many attempts at creating a country club on the site, and Mr. Crawford died just seven years later.
In the late 1980s, a private local fundraising effort gathered as much as $18 miillion for Texas-based Thomas Joseph Curtis Jr. before his enterprise defaulted on loans and went bankrupt, depleting many local investors of their savings.
Another man who lost a fortune at Keswick Hall was Sir Bernard Ashley, who reportedly pumped in $30 million atop his $5.5 million purchase price in the early 1990s. In 1997, after settling a lawsuit he waged against the consultants who allegedly "kindled" his interest, Ashley sold the club, hotel, and surrounding development property to the company that became known as Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. Ashley died in 2009.
As for Goodwin, he's an alumnus of Virginia Tech who founded a company originally called Commonwealth Computer Advisors. Now known as CCA Industries Inc., the company has held a variety of business interests including, at times, AMF Bowling and such golfing supply firms as the Ben Hogan Company and Bag Boy Company.
Reached by telephone the morning of Friday, January 6 in his CCA office, Goodwin said he wasn't able to comment. "You know I'm not going to be able to tell you anything," said the 71-year-old executive. "For the good of the employees."
Faces of Philanthropy estimates that Goodwin and his wife, Alice, have donated over $88 million to various cancer centers. Other recipients of the Goodwin largesse include Virginia Tech and the business and engineering schools at the University of Virginia.
Virginia Business magazine has put Goodwin on its list of the state's wealthiest, with a worth estimate topping $100 million; however, Style Weekly, citing unnamed friends, claims he's worth more than $1 billion.
Regarding any suggestion of a curse on the property, General Manager Matthias Smith, declines comment.
"It's just a wonderful place," says Smith, noting that the resort launched its own on-site vineyard last year. "It's exciting times for Keswick."
–story updated multiple times on Friday, January 6. On January 16, it was updated again to remove an assertions that Ashley spun off the real estate portion of the enterprise to a South Carolina firm. A source says that deal never closed.