Palisadians Graham Culp and Kris Thabit Help Restore Historic West LA Property
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The Griffin Club has been around for 95 years and the iconic West LA facility has never looked better—thanks in large part to the efforts and vision of two dedicated Palisadians.
Graham Culp, a partner at Santa Monica-based Meriwether Companies, and local real estate investor Kris Thabit have been instrumental in the $20 million renovation project, now in its final phase. Not only did the senescent club get a facelift, it got a heart transplant as well.
“These days it’s much more than your grandfather’s tennis club,” Culp said. “It prides itself on being progressive, inclusive and diverse, and welcoming to families, couples and singles of all ethnicities, professions and backgrounds. The club is mostly targeting and growing its base of diverse families throughout the Los Angeles area.”
The private social and athletic club just announced a drive-in movie night, virtual wine tasting with Silver Oak, to-go meal kits and more. It also unveiled a new junior Olympic size adult-oriented swimming pool, new cabanas and jacuzzi, making it the only club in Los Angeles with two outdoor pools.
“The building hadn’t been renovated since 1983, so that was our goal from day one,” Culp said. “It has two lap pools, a kid’s pool, two spas and an activity lawn for children. It’s very different now in vibe and feeling.”
LA’s most iconic private club has a rich history dating back to 1926. Despite the pandemic, Griffin Club has managed to maintain its record-breaking surge in membership.
“We bought it in 2015 and the idea of reinvigorating a historic club in the dead center of West LA was appealing,” Culp said. “It was in a state of disrepair and decline but we’ve invested $20 million into it and it shows.”
After a successful tenure with Discovery Land Company building high-end private golf communities, Culp started Meriwether Companies with some of his fellow partners in 2010, specializing in resort development hotels. Originally from North Carolina (he remains a huge Tar Heels fan), Culp moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2007 and, on the advice of friends, settled in the Palisades.
Culp and his wife Kimi, who produces a podcast with inspiring stories called “All the Wiser,” first lived in the Alphabet Streets, then the Huntington, but relocated to the Swarthmore Bluffs this year.
An LA native, Thabit attended Harvard-Westlake School (then called Harvard School for Boys) and went on to earn an economics degree from Harvard University. He formerly worked in the golf industry and currently wears several hats, serving as a managing partner at VE Partners LLC, board director at Pacific Shore Holdings, Inc. and chief financial officer at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, founded 20 years ago by David and Dallas Price.
“I’m partners with Meriwether Company and although we closed the deal with Griffin Club in 2015, I’d actually been talking with Graham about the possibility of buying it since 2011,” said Thabit, whose brother-in-law is longtime Palisadian-Post Staff Photographer Rich Schmitt. “We collaborated on everything and we did some vignettes touching on all aspects.”
Thabit has lived in Castellammare since 2000—and there is no place he would rather be.
“Who wouldn’t want to live in Pacific Palisades?” he shared. “It’s a special community, a special place. When I had the opportunity to move here, I jumped on it.”
Griffin Club currently boasts over 1,500 members, families and individuals, four dozen of them from the Santa Monica and Palisades area. It offers aquatics, tennis, fitness and full social programming, with events throughout the year. It is located on the corner of Motor and Manning in Cheviot Hills, halfway between Fox Studios and Sony Studios.
When the previous owner sold the four-acre property, then called Beverly Hills Country Club, Culp and his associates renamed and revitalized it.
Griffin Club was originally founded by Merv Griffin’s uncle Elmer as a gathering place for the most famous actors of the time, including Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and Cesar Romero. During the coronavirus pandemic, it has hosted virtual workout classes, outdoor workout equipment, remote work spaces, and a new app for members to book dedicated and socially distanced time slots for swimming, tennis, dining and exercise.
Meriwether Companies co-owns the club with Singerman Real Estate, LLC.
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