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Cunningham Property Management

Coming Through When the Heat Is On

Some people say that if you can't stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen. Metaphorically speaking, the principals of Cunningham Property Management Corporation began their 10-year business relationship in a pretty hot kitchen.

Sharon Cunningham, the company's president, and Vice President Kevin Mattoni entered the business through different doors, but they ended up at the same timeshare kitchen, so to speak. She was the property manager for a project that fell into foreclosure (as a result of a lack of sales by the developer), and he was assigned by a bank to ready the property for sale. Sharon and Kevin now manage six Florida timeshare operations and a whole ownership project. The Sarasota, Florida-based firm also holds marketing and consulting contracts on two other projects.

Interestingly, both partners came out of the same state and the same industry. Cunningham had worked for more than 20 years for BancOhio when the blizzard of 1978 hit. That storm convinced her to follow her dream and relocate to the Gulf Coast. Once there, she stayed at a hotel that was eventually demolished to make way for Calini Beach Club, a purpose-built timeshare resort on Siesta Key in Sarasota. She later became friends with Calini's developer, who persuaded her to work at his hotel. That experience led her to becoming the manager of Calini when it opened in October of 1982.

Although she had no experience in the timeshare industry, Cunningham says her banking knowledge helped her manage the resort. She had been an assistant vice president at BancOhio and quickly found out that her attention to detail was the major factor for the success in her new career.

Mattoni was returning to Florida after working in a marketing capacity for a Portugal resort when the problems surfaced in the S&L industry. He was a consultant for Buffalo, New York-based Goldome Savings Bank during that time, and the lender had expanded to Florida by acquiring smaller institutions that provided financing for a number of timeshare operations.

When forced to foreclose on numerous properties, the bank realized that its consumer mortgage liability was more than $200 million. Mattoni was brought in as an officer of the bank and charged with overseeing all the properties while marketing them to prospective investors.

Mattoni explains, "Keeping the resorts open and offering full service was a difficult task. The banks initial policy was to manage the property in-house and not fund any operating expenses. Sharon's ability to properly operate Calini without bank funding and to communicate effectively with the bank made the difference."

Ultimately, Goldome contracted with Cunningham to manage Little Gull Cottages, another timeshare resort on Sarasota's Longboat Key.

Meanwhile, Mattoni focused on showing investors how the projects could succeed via marketing. Goldome was able to sell the properties and to reduce its outstanding mortgages to about $60 million. As the S&L crisis wound down, Mattoni had become less interested in banking. Goldome's portfolio had shrunk, the bank was retrenching and returning to Buffalo, and he didn't want to move.

After Mattoni's resignation from Goldome in 1982, he continued working with Sharon Cunningham on what was, initially, a temporary basis. But the two soon realized that, together, they had a good package to offer. His marketing expertise and her management capability combined for a solid company. Cunningham Property Management was incorporated in 1985, and in 1987, Cunningham and Mattoni became partners. Now each is also proficient in the other's area of expertise.

The two soon realized that if the properties and the company were to survive, marketing was the key to generating income. They introduced the concept of a full-service company offering sales and rentals before the recent influx of management firms started capitalizing on marketing revenue. The firm's concentration on rental programs, local advertising, working with area chambers of commerce, as well as hosting hospitality parties, contributed to its growth.

Because of his background in banking, Mattoni can help home owners' associations comply with legal requirements and, therefore, control expenses. An association can spend a large portion of its budget on attorney fees, especially when subsequent legal filings are necessary or foreclosure proceedings begin, according to Mattoni. Some associations pay as much as $1,500 to foreclose on a single account, he says, but associations with which he is involved pay an average of less than $400.

Senior management also has developed a farsighted approach to refurbishing properties, Mattoni says. While some resorts often focus on using interior design materials that dazzle owners, his firm has learned that initial eye appeal must be balanced with housekeeping needs and durability.

The management firm has formed a unique relationship with a design company that saves from 18 percent to nearly 50 percent on refurbishing projects. Its contract with a small, licensed design company enables Cunningham Property Management to buy furnishings directly from the manufacturer. For this cost-saving benefit, it retains the firm for a flat fee.

In 1992, Cunningham Property Management won the management contract at the Beach Club in St. Augustine, Florida. Cunningham and Mattoni believe that their hands-on approach, extensive experience and competitive fee structure, all of which result in producing higher income for the owners' association, were the reasons they were selected.

Cunningham Property Management kept the resort's employees, at the request of its board of directors, and it has been able to upgrade the resort property, lower maintenance fees and completely refurbish the units' interiors.

"We've even budgeted for modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act," Mattoni points out. "All this is the result of a staff dedicated to quality of service. Rhonda Swain, on-site manager at the Beach Club, is one of the best property managers in Florida."

Even though the company is ready for growth, it�s "not in a hurry." Sharon Cunningham says. The firm continues to be very selective about the resorts it bids on. It does not want to become involved in properties that aren�t committed to a high-quality vacation experience for guests. She believes that a desirable location and a dedicated developer or board of directors are absolute musts to succeed in a very demanding and competitive field.

Cunningham Property Management's current thrust for the future is to forge an alliance with a large development or management group that will bring additional benefits to its current owners and offer possibilities for new projects. The principals believe that their past success is due to offering owners a full range of services.

Headquarters: Sarasota, Florida
Primary business: Timeshare property Management
Principals: Sharon Cunningham and Kevin Mattoni, equal partners

Number of resorts managed:
6
Number of employees:
48
Price range of units:
$1,995 to $18,000
Number of owners:
8,100
Total number of units:
184

RCI affiliated resorts:
The Beach Club at St. Augustine**, St Augustine Beach, Florida;
Calini Beach Club**, Siesta Key, Florida;
Little Gull Cottages**, Longboat Key, Florida.
Longboat Bay Club**, Longboat Key, Florida
Gulf Tides of Longboat Key**, Longboat Key, Florida
Siesta Sands Beach Resort, Siesta Key, Florida

**Gold Crown Resort

Reprinted from:
RCI PERSPECTIVE MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 1995

by John Thomas

 


Interval International affiliated resorts:
The Beach Club at St. Augustine, St Augustine Beach, Florida;
Calini Beach Club, Siesta Key, Florida;
Little Gull Cottages, Longboat Key, Florida.
Longboat Bay Club, Longboat Key, Florida
Gulf Tides of Longboat Key, Longboat Key, Florida
Siesta Sands Beach Resort, Siesta Key, Florida

Current Principals:
Kevin Mattoni - Managing Partner
Sharon Cunningham - Partner
Richard Cunningham - Partner

 

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