In debt for millions posh 21 McGill club to be sold at auction

The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Ont]


Friday, March 18, 1983, page 1


Saddled with $6.5-million in debt, 21 McGill, the posh and private Toronto women's club, will soon be sold at auction, the club's founder said last night.

"I am totally wiped out," said Isabel Beveridge. "After 10 years, I have lost everything." Miss Beveridge, who started the club in 1973, said she was forced to place it in receivership because tradesmen who are owed $2-million, would not agree to replace their liens with a third mortgage. Other financing is unavailable, she said, and there are outstanding loans held by a bank and a mortgage company.

She said it would be too much to expect the 2,500 members to bail the club out.

Miss Beveridge said one Toronto mortgage firm, which was prepared to come to the rescue, backed out at the last minute. She said members will probably be better off if they accept the sale of the club to a new owner than try to prop up the present one.

She said she knew, when the club decided to rebuild after it was burned down by an arsonist in 1980, that it was a risky proposition because of the high price of money, and the unfavorable economic climate. "We knew we did not have enough money and all of the (economic) signals were negative. I could have taken my (insurance) money and run, but this club has been my life and I wanted it to work," she said.

Myra Marcovitch, a charter member, said the mood at the club last night was one of disbelief. "We are all totally shocked and devastated by this. We can't believe it is happening," she said. She said many of the club members are disappointed that Miss Beveridge didn't come to them earlier for financial help. "Many of us are professional women with a lot of connections in Toronto. But Isabel never confided in the membership." The club's initiation fee is $3,500 with an annual fee of $750. Most members are business and professional women. The average age is 35. Novelist Margaret Atwood and singer Sylvia Tyson have been members.

After a two-year hiatus, during which activities were held in buildings around Toronto, the club reopened in December, 1982. During the closure, about 400 women quit the club but those vacancies were replaced from a waiting list of 1,000.

Many of the club's members recently expressed dissatisfaction with the club's new modern look. The old club was a cosy, comfortable place with chintz-upolstered chairs and plum-colored walls.

The Globe's architecture writer, Adele Freedman, described the new look as "cold and soulless." After the $6-million renovation, about 40 members organized to press the club management for improvements. Their complaints ranged from lack of lounging space to cramped badminton and basketball courts.

The liens against the club range from a $6,200 claim by a consulting firm to a $331,333 claim by an equipment company. Most of the liens are under $100,000 although six are for more than that. Two companies have begun actions in the Supreme Court of Ontario against the club and its owners.

Registry office records show that the Royal Bank of Canada and Standard Trust Co. of Toronto are involved in financing the club.

Miss Beveridge said the receiver, Coopers and Lybrand of Toronto, will sell the building, furniture, equipment, and memberships as a package to the highest bidder.