Commerce Club and 191 Club sign agreement to merge

By Maria Saporta

The merger between the Commerce Club and the One Ninety One Club has moved one step closer.

The two clubs are announcing today that that they have entered into an agreement to combine their memberships and move to a new location on the 49th floor of the One Ninety One Peachtree Tower

The new club will keep the historic Commerce Club name, but it will be operated by ClubCorp, owner of the One Ninety One Club. Dallas-based ClubCorp will own the lease.

The highly-influential Commerce Club board will continue to lead the merged club, but there will be two representatives from the One Ninety One Club added to that board. The operating board will include 50 percent representation from each club.

The final agreement is expected to be signed early next year pending the signing of a lease, the acceptance of a design and the awarding of a construction contract.

“People are excited about putting these two entities in place in a brand new location with additional amenities,” said David Ratcliffe, chairman of the Commerce Club board and CEO of the Southern Co.

Ratcliffe did say it has taken longer to reach this point than had been expected when the talks first started nearly 18 months ago.

“I think the nature of this relationship is a unique one for ClubCorp,” Ratcliffe said. “Their model allows them to have much more control. Here the Commerce Club has the ultimate control. Combining these two entities with a level of comfort to control the outcome has taken awhile.”

The talks have continued because both clubs agree on the ultimate goal.

“I’m certain that the desired end result is a shared vision,” Ratcliffe said. “We both agree that the outcome we want is to have the best business club in the history of Atlanta.”

The merger also might be a matter of survival for both clubs, which have suffered from a drop in membership. Currently, the Commerce Club has 796 members, down fro 977 members in December, 2007. The one Ninety One Club also has lost members, but Ratcliffe didn’t know those numbers.

If the final agreement is signed in early 2010, Ratcliffe said the hope would be that the new club would be able to open by 2011. The Commerce Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The combined club will have a 15-year lease with the One Ninety One Peachtree Tower.

The Commerce Club has played an important role in Atlanta’s history since its inception as “the central meeting place for business and civic leaders,” Ratcliffe said.
The board continues to meet the first Thursday of every month except during the summer months.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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