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Bobby Genovese unfolds plans for BG Sun Plaza near Silver Springs park

By Richard Anguiano
Business editor
Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 6:11 p.m.

The international entrepreneur whose holdings in Marion County include Silver Springs Management, LLC, and Wild Waters said he has bought and plans to remodel the Sun Plaza Motel opposite the amusement complex at the intersection of East Silver Springs Boulevard and Baseline Road.

 

Bobby Genovese, the Canadian­born, Bahamasbased chairman of BG Capital Group, revealed his latest venture and the company’s president updated others while speaking to members of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership on Wednesday, as part of the CEP’s “exCEPtional mornings” breakfast series.

 

“It’s an incredible opportunity to restore not only an Ocala landmark, but a Florida landmark, and to provide a better upscale accommodation option for people visiting the park, which is what it’s all about,” Genovese said after the meeting.

 

“My vision is to create a glamping (glamour camping) experience where people can come for two or three days, stay in a truly retrofitted, upscale, boutique motel and be across the street from one of our state, if not national, treasures, and have people really enjoy it,” he said. “And I intend to spend a lot more money in that area.”

 

The timetable for finishing construction is February or March, with reopening planned for March or April, according to Genovese. He said he aims to keep the “retro feeling” of the 50­room motel at 5461 E. Silver Springs Blvd. while making changes.

 

“All the rooms are being completely gutted,” he said. “New mattresses, new everything.”

 

The Marion County Property Appraiser Office website indicates the motel was built in 1950.

 

Genovese wouldn’t reveal terms of the acquisition. “That’s nobody’s business,” he said.

 

The deed on file with the Marion County Clerk of Court says the sales price was $1.1 million.

 

The clerk’s records also indicate the filing of articles of incorporation for BG Sun Plaza LLC in August, with Owen Duke and Arden Tilghman listed as managers.

 

Tilghman, president of BG Capital Group, also spoke during Wednesday’s CEP breakfast, describing “a whirlwind summer” of activity since she joined the firm in March.

 

“We had three companies at the time I came up,” said Tilghman, whose online biography lists her as a former CEO and president of Arabian Nights Dinner Attraction in Kissimmee. “We’ve now grown essentially to nine in the area in just a few months.”

 

Tilghman described Silver Springs State Park as BG Capital’s “flagship property.”

 

“We have the pleasure of being the concessionaires who were able to transition this beautiful natural resource into an ecotourism center,” she said. “The last year we worked hand in hand with the DEP to bring more activities that are ecotourism centered to that park.”

 

Also over the summer, the company reopened the neighboring Wild Waters water park.

 

“We won that contract on June 2 and we opened that park on June 12,” Tilghman said.

 

Other properties Tilghman described include:

 

• BG Equestrian Resort, part of much larger collection of luxury accommodations called BG Signature Properties with properties around the world;

 

• Ocala Entertainment Complex, “which we’re now beginning to refer to lovingly as BG Convention Center”;

 

• BG Downtown, a bar at 11 E. Silver Springs Blvd., “upscale and geared toward the business community”;

 

• Partnerships with Anthony Perera of Cowboys Saloon and Joel Wiessner of What’s Up Media.

 

In his presentation to CEP members, Genovese said he is often asked “What is BG Capital and what are you doing in Ocala?”

 

He gave a personal biography, beginning with his days riding horses, baling hay and shoveling stalls on a Canadian farm in his youth, after which he went to Vancouver “and learned about the stock exchange.”

 

“For me it just sort of all came together and I subsequently ended up moving to the Bahamas,” he said.

 

Not long after, Genovese said, he found himself in Palm Beach watching a polo match.

 

“I’m thinking, I could do that,” he said. “I took a polo lesson the next day and subsequently spent the next 12 years traveling the world playing polo.”

 

“Through all of that,” Genovese said, he created BG Capital and told his colleagues to find a business “with good cash flow.”

 

“If you’ve got cash flow, you can weather the storms and be strong,” he said.

 

His team came back with “the largest cremation company in North America, called the Neptune Society.”

 

“The more I looked at it, the more we fell in love with it,” Genovese said. “We took that business from roughly 12 offices to 87 or 90 offices today. It’s been an amazing success story.”

 

Genovese said he’s since sold the business to Service Corp.

 

“I can’t be an expert in every business,” he said. “So, instead of buying businesses, I’m better off at finding people who are good at what they do and I’ll be the bank.

 

“I have a great gift at 30,000 feet to understand where these businesses can go and where it needs to happen,” Genovese added. “Subsequently, if you give those people the tools they will grow their businesses.”

 

That business model has “snowballed” for Genovese and BG Capital, he said.

 

“We are well north of ($200 million) in revenues,” Genovese said.

 

He ended up in Ocala, he said, because he wanted to teach his children “what it’s like to grow up on a farm and bale hay” so he bought a Marion County farm near the Florida Horse Park that is now the BG Equestrian Resort.

 

“I thought, we could really make a difference in this community,” he said. “We could really make a footprint.”

 

After the meeting, Genovese took issue with a June Star­Banner story detailing critics’ assessment of his business practices. The June report cited court filings accusing him of being a “pump­and­dumper” — buying an interest in a company, inflating its stock price either through trading between other companies he owns or by planting deceptive reports in media he owns, then selling out before the price plummets.

 

Critics have questioned Genovese’s dealings in businesses including Liberty Silver, Spectrum Sciences & Software Holdings, American Lithium Minerals and Clearly Canadian.

 

In June, he said his goal “is to build companies,” adding he’s lost money on ventures that didn’t pan out, such as Clearly Canadian.

 

“I think if you’d take my batting rate, I’d say 85 to 90 percent works and, absolutely, there’s 10 percent that are beyond your control,” Genovese told the Star­Banner in June.

 

On Wednesday morning, Genovese described a pending class­action suit in south Florida related to pump­and­dump allegations as “made up” and “based on an anonymously written 16­page report.”

 

“The whole thing is about to be dismissed,” he said. “So, when it is, I think it should be printed.

 

“Whether it’s true or not, the court will decide down the road,” Genovese said. “But the fact that they could launch a lawsuit with no basis in fact, nothing, and then the newspaper prints it … it’s crazy.”

 

Contact Richard Anguiano at 867­4104 or richard.anguiano

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