Hoping to enjoy the same level of success that Exclusive Resorts had with billionaire Steve Case, Ciel was the venture of J. Joseph Ricketts, Founder of Ameritrade. When the club launched in 2006, Ricketts was number 292 on Forbes World's Richest People. Catering to the most elite of the elite, Ciel targeted an audience who already owned second and third homes with a net worth of over $30 million. As of 2006, these ultra-high net worth individuals made up 0.001% of the world's population, and Ciel wanted their club to be just as exclusive.
Limited to just 100 members, Ciel's $1 million membership deposit and $65,000 annual dues joined Solstice Collection and Yellowstone Club World at the top end of the destination club industry. Unique to the club's model, 60% of a member's deposit was used for real estate acquisitions and the remaining 40% was used to purchase treasury bills. Through these treasury bills, members could redeem their membership through a "zero in, one out" basis.
The high membership costs afforded club members significant travel benefits. The five to one member to property ratio was an industry leader in terms of availability. The $5-$10 million properties were staffed with butlers with culinary experience and the experiental factor of club membership were widely used. Members could arrange to make the legendary ascent of Mount Ventoux, a crippling climb of the Tour de France, or schedule private wine tastings and never have to raise a finger.
Despite the exclusive nature of the club, Ciel famously made a last minute bid to acquire the assets of Tanner & Haley following the club's bankruptcy. In November of 2006, just as a $98 million bid was being accepted from Ultimate Resort, Preeminent Global Experience LP, a firm led by Ricketts, submitted an offer for $108 million. Ciel looked to add the Tanner & Haley assets as a "mid-range complement" to their original ultra-luxury vision. Both clubs eventually increased their bids, Ultimate Resort moving to $100 million and Ciel going as high as $112 million, but Judge Alan H.W. Swiff decision remained with Ultimate Resort. "I continue to be confident that Ultimate is the best choice for Tanner & Haley members and I am extremely pleased that the judge agreed with us," said Holly Etlin, Tanner & Haley's Chief Restructuring Officer.
In a statement released by Preeminent's COO Jonathan Harding, "We understand the pressures facing the various Tanner & Haley parties and rather than be discouraged by the decision to move in a different direction, we are emboldened by the favorable response we have received from so many quarters including many Tanner & Haley members."
In December of 2007, Ciel announced a paradigm model change where they would begin to acquire large tracts of land and focus on conservation. Members would serve as trustees and have access to the homes in the portfolio and land and enjoy the tax benefits attached to conservation easement. The club ceased new membership sales and offered current members a 100% refund of their deposits. Ciel planned to spend 2008 further establishing their model but quietly fell by the way side, their website pulled and no new information coming from the club regarding their new conservation focus.
To learn more about Ciel, please visit any of the club's quick links found to the right or request a free copy of our Destination Club Guide.
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