In the early years of the timeshare industr¬y – late 70s and early 80s – major banks and financial institutions had no understanding about the timeshare product. Timesharing was so new there was no proven track record of its creditworthiness. But developers could not move forward without development and consumer receivable financing loans to buy land, build resorts and sell to consumers on financing terms.
Until banks eventually started to take notice of the growing popularity of the timeshare product, the lack of financing was a serious stumbling block to the industry’s early growth.
At about this same time, Bert Blicher had graduated from the Wharton School of Business and started working at Philadelphia-based Oxford First Corp., a large finance and real estate company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. After giving a speech on financing at an early timeshare conference, 60 attendees came up to him and asked for financing. Bingo! He knew he was on to something new and potentially big! After six months of studying and underwriting, Bert recognized that timesharing was a great vacation product and purchasers loved it. He started a department at Oxford to finance timeshare resorts in 1979, becoming the first U.S. lender in the business. By 1982, his Resort Timeshare Financing had grown to become Oxford’s largest profit center with very low default rates.
By now Bert was applauded nationally as a financial expert in timesharing and was selected as treasurer and then Chairman of ARDA. But in 1991, the association was in bad financial shape. With his guidance and financing acumen, ARDA was soon on sound financial footing with over a million dollars in reserves, helping to significantly improve the industry’s credibility. He later served as Chairman of ARDA’s International Timeshare Foundation, promoting industry education and research and more recently was awarded ARDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.
“In 1995, Oxford First was sold and taken private,” reminisced Bert. “Of all the various businesses Oxford-financed I became mesmerized by the timeshare business. Not only did I love the concept but also the people. I went out on my own, forming Resort Capital Group.
Bert was hired by the Trustee of Epic Resorts’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy company in 2002 to manage six timeshare resorts and 20,000 owners/members to implement a major stabilization program, which helped sell the assets at the highest value. During this project, he learned how to turn around troubled projects and make them a huge financial success. This led him to become an entrepreneur with Blue Water Resorts.
“I decided that I liked the developer side of the business, he said, “and purchased Blue Water Resort, an existing timeshare development in the Bahamas. I presented a plan for existing owners to renovate the older resort and outsourced the marketing, sales, and management with Bluegreen Corp. which ultimately sold out the resort.”
He continued, “When I had been President of ARDA, I realized as great as the business was, it had one flaw: the resale end of the business … with people having no way to sell their timeshares. Since timeshares were sold as a long-term product, the major challenge would be how owners could sell their interest when vacation needs changing.”
After attending a resale presentation by a “rescue company” Bert knew their unsavory, scam-like practices would be a further strain on the industry and purchased Fidelity Resales and Timeshares Only, the largest U.S. resale companies. He felt that his previous success in the industry would help put these ‘bad guys’ out of business. “Although we have made great progress,” he says, “this challenge has frankly been the most difficult one in my business career. It is sad that we did not address this issue as an industry many years ago.”
“In looking back,” he reflects, “I am truly proud of the many people who have worked in my companies and succeeded in this great industry. There are two super-smart, young and energetic professionals who now play major roles on our team. Debbie Ely is President of the development and financing side of the business. She recently found a niche in financing individual resales; in eight short months, we’ve financed over one million dollars in individual loans. As president of the resale companies, Sam Pontius has helped guide us toward making a positive impact on the resale end of the business.”
Over the past three decades, Bert Blicher has earned a stellar reputation while serving in three uniquely different timeshare roles: leader, developer, and owner of a resale company. He was the first lender at the inception of the timeshare business and knew even 38 years ago that financing was critical to its survival. He also taught other lenders how to enter the field, resulting in a sufficient amount of lending capacity as the industry has grown. He is proud to have tackled the missing link to the resale end of the business and feels he is helping to resolve the price/value issue, long an industry imperfection.
Today, Bert lives in Delray Beach, Florida with his “bride” Marci of over 36 years. The couple has a son, Ryan, who is an attorney in New York and a daughter, Nicole who has a public relations firm in Philadelphia. Over the long run, Bert knows it is all about the people and is proud he has been able to help others become successful on their own personal journeys. Sincere congratulations, Bert, for your pioneering spirit, tireless energy, and remarkable problem-solving skills!