fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

A Family Affair

The Becnels Mix Business with Pleasure

By Lisa Burwell | Photography by Jessie Shepard

At VIE’s request, an interview with the Becnel family was arranged by longtime employee and friend of the Becnel family, Deborah Horaist. The Becnels, who are low-key and not prone to granting interviews, made this meeting even more special. Their welcoming hospitality, with their children and grandchildren bustling about, set the tone for a relaxed and informal interview. Tom and his wife, Carla, chose their beautiful new home in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort so that they could be part of the community, but they said their company office would remain in Destin.

After a brief tour of their home and an impromptu photo shoot, I sat down with Tom and his son, Damon, in their large pool cabana. Watching this father-and-son duo finish each other’s sentences, banter, agree and then disagree with one another all at the same time revealed a strong family bond between them. They share a clear vision of how things should be done. They’re driven. They don’t appear to be the type of people to sit around and talk about what to do—they just do it. “We are passionate about our opinions,” Damon said with a big smile. “Intelligent, honest people can disagree without detracting from one another.” The fact that they are not mired in bureaucratic red tape allows them to be nimble and make decisions quickly. This family-run business is an important one to the Becnels. “It’s your name and not a corporation,” said Damon. “A family-run business can move faster than a large corporation.”

a family affair becnels mix business with pleasure sandestin golf and beach resort  

When we met, the Becnels had recently inked the purchase of the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort from Vancouver-based Intrawest that had been a year and a half in the making. Throughout the negotiation process, there was much speculation as to whether or not the deal would go through, with many rooting for the Becnels, partly because of the Becnels’ good reputation and partly because they were locals. A track record of success as developers and operators of Silver Shells Resort, the Palms of Destin, and One Beach Club Drive in Sandestin is to their credit. The purchase includes the management contract of Cottage Rental Agency, the primary rental management company in Seaside, Florida, and the management contracts for the Sandestin Marriott Residence Inn and Marriott Courtyard, both located in Grand Boulevard at the entrance of the resort. “It was a complicated asset with a lot of moving parts,” explained Tom. “We were the fourth bidder back in 2000 when we first attempted to purchase the resort, but we had been beaten out by Intrawest. So, the deal had really been ten years in the making if you count that.”


“We’ve been very well received by the Sandestin Homeowners Association and we’ll continue to dialogue about win-win strategies for success,” said Tom. They explained that their immediate course of action was to evaluate costs and benefits, and the subsequent rewards in moving forward to create Sandestin’s future. One of the evaluations taking center stage the day of our meeting was of the tram system in the resort to make sure it was green-friendly. “We plan on implementing environmentally sound principles with all we do in the resort,” said Tom.

The Becnels are avid outdoor sportsmen, and to that end they intend to introduce fifteen to twenty coveys of quail to the resort. “We have so much wildlife here that needs to be nurtured and these subtle changes will be noticed in the first few months of our assuming ownership,” noted Damon. In addition, they want the resort to celebrate its Florida locale by planting fruit-bearing trees, including lime, grapefruit, cherry, lemon, orange, and kumquat trees. “We want the resort visitors to have an aromatic sensory experience upon entering the gates,” emphasized Tom.

a family affair becnels mix business with pleasure sandestin golf and beach resort  

“We are developers, and it’s in our blood,” proudly continued Tom. “We want to make this place that we love even better. When you come to Sandestin, we want to make sure there is something for everyone, so we’re elevating the experience at the Village of Baytowne Wharf, opening a new fitness center and looking into adding day slips at the marina so we can have more visitors via the waterways, and more family-friendly attractions, to name a few additions.” He went on to say that they were adding more activities to the Village of Baytowne Wharf, like a carousel for the summer months. At the time of our interview, plans were under way to create a beach on the south side of the marina and a marina grill, both of which have since been completed. This simple yet appropriate addition makes a big difference in the ambience of the marina. “Our goal is to be more exclusive as we want visitors and residents alike to choose Sandestin because we’re the best.”

a family affair becnels mix business with pleasure sandestin golf and beach resort fruit nuts  

To that end, the Becnels are very pleased with the leadership of Sandestin’s president and head of operations, John Russell, and the team of professionals that he has assembled to lead this mandate for the resort. “John has a background working with the Ritz-Carlton and this will be a helpful commodity in having us achieve a higher level of sophistication.”

lake family affair becnels mix business with pleasure sandestin golf and beach resort  

When asked for their predictions about our local economy, they said that we will feel the recovery before other parts of the country, as Sandestin was experiencing a dramatic improvement in sales over last year. Our interview occurred pre-oil spill, so we can only hope and pray that Tom’s insights are correct and that the oil crisis will be resolved as soon as possible.

— V —

Read Responsibly

VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail