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Jan 10, 2013

Exclusive Sydney club closes — where will rich old white men go now?

A plush business club for Sydney's elite has collapsed owing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Administrators say the days of old-school, smoke-filled clubs might be finally over.

An exclusive private “members only” business club which aimed to foster closer relations between Australia and America has collapsed into administration owing $500,000 to creditors. It seems the “new-age man” killed it off.

Murray Godfrey and David Iannuzzi of RMG Partners have been appointed as administrators of The American Club, which was founded in 1947. The club was launched by the then American ambassador Robert Butler, who told members at the launch of the club it would promote a “clearer understanding” between the citizens of Australia and the United States.

“In my estimation this organisation will prove to be one of the outstanding contributions to closer relations between Australia and America,” Butler said.

At its peak The American Club had 1000 members who paid $750 a year to make use of the club’s luxurious headquarters on Sydney’s Macquarie Street with sweeping views over Sydney Harbour. The club’s website describes it as “a place where people of good taste from around the world could meet for business and pleasure, in a relaxed but exclusive environment, and enjoy good food and drink”.

But over time the club’s membership declined and on December 21 last year it was forced to abandon its Macquarie Street headquarters.

Iannuzzi told Crikey The American Club owes around $500,000 to creditors, including $200,000 to the Commonwealth Bank and around $250,000 to other creditors including the club’s landlord, trade creditors such as printers and the Australian Taxation Office. He blames the drop in membership numbers and high rent at Macquarie Street for the collapse.

“The membership has reduced from over 1000 to around 300 members and the sad story is that clubs these days just don’t survive because of other avenues and other means of connecting and communicating,” he said.

The club is still in operation and trading. Iannuzzi expects the club to be handed back to its members after the second meeting of creditors next Tuesday on when it will amalgamate with another club.

“All going to plan it is envisaged that the proposal put forward by the president of the club will be accepted and the club will continue to survive and the administrators will step aside and hand back the club to the members,” he said. “The members will seek interest from other clubs in Sydney to form a new breed of The American Club to a smaller scale.”

Iannuzzi says there are a number of clubs that have shown some interest in amalgamating with The American Club and Crikey understands the Tattersalls Club is one potential candidate.

“The members will find a nice place somewhere else to go and smoke their cigars and do whatever they need to do in the business world,” Iannuzzi said.

He describes The American Club as “very much an old-school club” filled with memorabilia of George Bush and Barack Obama, “it was a place to go have a drink, talk some politics and sports”.

“That sort of generation is slowly disappearing and with the new-age man coming through it is not the sort of place that will survive in its current format, so the club is looking to downsize and move on from the lavish premises on Macquarie Street as the rent is quite high and now it is just incurring losses,” Iannuzzi said.

*This article was first published at SmartCompany

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10 thoughts on “Exclusive Sydney club closes — where will rich old white men go now?

  1. beachcomber

    Maybe they should Skype or form a Facebook Group

  2. Knotched

    So, leaving aside the obvious overtones that the author brings to this “story”, so what?
    Why can’t rich old white men congregate in their own environment without interference?
    Every other minority, racial, sexual or obscure group can freely associate in this country, what single out an old target?

  3. Freespirited

    Having had our wedding and reception at The American Club, I did laugh at the “rich, old, white men” comment. The American Club whilst being somewhat old-world will indeed be missed by many. Many who are not rich, nor old white men.
    And I agree with Knotched – everyone needs a place to go, even the antiquated stereotype used in this article.
    A bittersweet day.

  4. bluepoppy

    The Americans will never understand the Aussie sense of humour anyway. 🙂

  5. IC-1101

    What an unfortunate, demeaning headline.

  6. Arty

    It was freedom of association in process but never-the-less subject to market forces.

    Always feel sorry for the creditors, but …

  7. Venise Alstergren

    BLUE POPPY: You mean the Americans have a sense of humour?

  8. alex.rosser

    Perhaps the most memorable feature of the old American Club was the gentlemens loo. Whilst most such facilities are relegated to the dark dank windowless core of their building, at the Club a gentleman was treated to a superb panorama of the harbour. Opera House, Bridge, ferries, the works. A view enjoyed while pointing percy at the porcelain (if you were a Mr Humphries).
    Sic transit gloria.

  9. Patriot

    The rich old whites don’t bother me, but I do like to be aware of where the unemployed black and middle-eastern youths are hanging out.

  10. Hamis Hill

    Is there a religious undertone to the typically Australian fear and hatred of the overwhelmingly Protestant US?
    Is is very hard to understand except as some sort of brainwashing, as expounded in William Sargant’s “Battle For The Mind”, which, in the aftermath of the Korean War, exposed the methodology of the totalitarian medieval church.( not very widely read during the Cold War, perhaps suppressed as too subversive?)
    Whatever the cause, this antagonism is sad and destructive and speaks to the xenophobia typical of a education system deficient in the study of history, in particular the shared history of the States, the UK and Australia.
    Now where might we find such a system here in good old OZ?
    Might provide some sort of explanation to those Americans wondering where the fear and hatred comes from.
    Ouch! What you don’t think US visitors and residents don’t notice? Yanks-Septic Tanks? Yah know what I mean?