Launched as the "first and only affordable luxury travel destination club," Private Escapes was founded by Richard Keith, Kären Siwek, and Ed Powers late in 2003. Keith, a former member and interim Chief Operating Officer of Private Retreats took the model used at Private Retreats and tailored it to a more price sensitive audience not willing to pay the high membership costs associated with his former club.
As COO of Private Retreats, Keith approached the club's CEO Rob McGrath about the concept of a lower priced club and was invited to use the Private Retreats model for the new venture. During the early phases of the club's launch, Private Escapes counted Private Retreats amongst their affiliates, marketing the new club as "The experience of Private Retreats and the value of Private Escapes...it does not exist anywhere in the marketplace...until now." McGrath even had the first right of refusal to acquire Private Escapes if he looked to sell.
"Until now, destination clubs have been limited to the extremely affluent with entry fees starting in the hundreds of thousands," Keith said. "Private Escapes has captured the niche as the first travel destination club to offer an affordable alternative for destination club membership without sacrificing quality."
Keith's intuition proved accurate as the lower cost model quickly gained traction. Private Escapes launched with a Charter Membership of $65,000 and homes valued at more than $500,000. Comparatively, Private Retreats memberships were being sold at $250,000. Less than a year after launch in August of 2004, Keith and company had already launched a new club, Private Escapes Platinum. Similar to the original Private Escapes' "first and only affordable destination club", Private Escapes Platinum was the "first and only luxury destination club to offer its members an annual dividend based on the performance of the company's maturing resort real estate portfolio." In addition to the $1.5 million homes available exclusively to members, the club would distribute 18 percent of the appreciation from the club's real estate holdings to members in the form of cash or club credits. Nearly two years to the day later, Private Escapes Pinnacle was launched, featuring $3 million homes and the highest club offering available. Members of each club were able to access properties from the other two clubs on a limited basis through a reciprocal access program.
With Private Escapes on the rise, Private Retreats was beginning to fall apart. Due to a combination of insufficient annual dues, guaranteed reservations for members, and an increasingly competitive marketplace, Private Retreats, now doing business as Tanner & Haley after losing its licensing agreement with Abercrombie & Kent, was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Private Escapes, Ciel, and Ultimate Resort all made aggressive plays at the club before Ultimate Resort's $98 million bid was chosen.
In September of 2007, Private Escapes and Ultimate Resort, now including the vast majority of Tanner & Haley's members, announced a merger that would join their two collective clubs as Ultimate Escapes. The collected members of the club had access to the two club's combined properties since May of 2008 and officially completed the merger in September of 2009.
To learn more about Private Escapes, please visit any of the club's quick links found to the right. Please also visit our Ultimate Escapes Overview to learn more about the new club or request a free copy of our Destination Club Guide.
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