Hollywood power couples have their choice of fabulous places across the world when it comes to choosing where to spend their precious down time. For one couple, they’ve never found a better place to relax, unwind, and be themselves than BIGHORN. Last year, Nanette Pattee Francini – President and Founder of The Sports Club Company – and Jim Urie – recently retired CEO of Universal Music Group – made that fact loud and clear. After having spent weekends at BIGHORN for more than a decade, they made their former part-time sanctuary on the Mountains 5th fairway their permanent winter residence.
Originally, the couple had planned to drive out once a month. “We would get out of the car and all of a sudden it would be quiet. No pressure, beautiful surroundings – it was an amazing experience,” says Jim. Nanette tells the rest of the story. “While we were still busy running our companies, it was exciting to envision a new and different lifestyle. And once we met all the really great people here, we spent the next 12 years driving back and forth every single weekend!” Invitations to entertainment parties and happenings were politely declined so they could hole up in the place they loved most. Jim estimates they were spending 80 to 90 nights a year at BIGHORN, grabbing every day off and holiday they could.
Now they’re settled in and thrilled with their decision. ”It feels different on a Monday morning when you don’t have to drive back,” Jim says. “It’s more relaxing to spend the whole season here.” Nanette says that while they maintain both homes, she’s glad to finally have her favorite things put away in her closet and jewelry drawer at BIGHORN.
Though having embraced the slower pace, the couple enjoys staying involved in their respective industries, from which they launched to success beginning in the 1970s. In 1979, Nanette created an unparalleled health and fitness dynasty when she introduced the concept of luxury clubs with a business partner. From that first club, The Sports Connection, to what became an extensive collection of health clubs, The Sports Club/LA, operates throughout the largest cities across the country. Nanette’s 30-plus years reinventing the health and fitness industry paved the way for current luxury health club concepts around the globe. She is recognized as a top fitness and lifestyle expert as well as a business visionary and has received many accolades, including being named to the Committee of 200, a membership organization of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate innovators.
Jim began his career in 1972 as a college rep for CBS records in Washington, D.C. By 2008, after 12 years with the company, he was named CEO of Universal – the largest music company in the world and home to such artists as Taylor Swift, George Strait, Jay Z, U2, Luke Bryan, Lady Gaga, Jon Bon Jovi and many more.
“We talk about travel all the time, but the first thing on our bucket list was spending a whole season at BIGHORN and we’re having a lot of fun with that,” Nanette says. “We feel like we should travel, and are going to. But we’re really comfortable here right now.”
“In our careers, we operated with the same philosophy that we find operates at BIGHORN,” Nanette points out. “We were dedicated to enhancing lives. It’s a blessing that’s hard to come by.”
Jim, who officially retired in December 2014, is still a consultant; Nanette holds a director position in the company she sold and is an Executive Vice President of Cochise Capital, an investment company with entertainment and real estate holdings. Through it all, they have held their marriage as a priority and complemented one another on many levels. “Jim is a great team leader,” Nanette says of her husband who has built strong relationships with artists across all facets of the entertainment industry. “So many people he has worked with have credited him with helping them succeed.” Jim quickly returns the praise. “Meanwhile, you founded the best company in your field.”
Life was much more hectic for this charming pair back in 2002/2003, when each was president at their respective companies. That’s when Nanette spotted an ad for BIGHORN in Palm Springs Life.
Both were working long, hard hours and supporting each other in their ambitious endeavors, but they hadn’t thought about purchasing a place where they could escape L.A.’s relentless demands. “Jim had no intention of buying, but we fell in love with it,” she recalls. “Of the more than 100 golf clubs and gated communities here it was incredible for us to find the top of our category right away without even knowing what we were doing!” Jim nods, adding that they visited a few others before their final decision. “We actually stopped one guy right in the middle of his tour and said, ‘We’re sorry but we’re wasting your time.’ We came right here, put our dogs’ photos in the frames, and we’re still having fun,” he says.
For Nanette, that fun means tennis – a game for which she has immense enthusiasm. Her kudos for BIGHORN’s program carries tremendous weight, considering her professional fitness background. “Tennis is my passion here because we have the best teaching pro anywhere – Dan Aubuchon – and an amazing program that makes it so easy to play. Dan builds on our talents and makes us better while we’re having fun. Taking lessons from him and participating in our tennis clinics are the reasons that I came to love the game. I rarely miss a day. The ability to simply show up without calling people or any pre-planning whatsoever, warm up, and then get matched with the perfect partner and opponents (Dan is genius at that), thus making the games always exciting, is really something special and unique to BIGHORN. And this season we’ve gained another great pro in Frank.” When she’s not playing tennis, she is working out with trainer Chris Manger in the Fitness Center. “I’ve employed thousands of top-notch trainers and the ones at BIGHORN are in the same category,” she says. “My Clubhouse is the spa and gym,” adds this woman who knows a premier wellness and fitness facility when she sees one!
“Mine is the men’s grill or club room,” says Jim, who had attended college on a golf scholarship but hadn’t played in five years before they landed at BIGHORN. Now he loves to take on those fairways among friends, with the same level of drive and charisma that shaped his career.
“We made so many good friends here that having guests cramps our style,” Jim laughs. “Other than our four kids, we rarely have anyone outside the gates with us because we’re so busy having fun with people inside the gates!” While they spent years running with A-listers and celebrities while attending red carpet events – from the Grammys to the CMAs – the couple says they keep an “eclectic” group of friends from all backgrounds, most of which are BIGHORN neighbors. “It’s just a great mix of people here,” Jim affirms.
Friends always get a kick out of peeking in the couple’s garage where Jim’s industry awards, autographed photos of world-class musicians, and other mementos of his numerous achievements for top names in the music business cover several impressive walls. But it’s the tile by their entry that speaks their hearts best. “Hacienda de las Bendiciones,” or, “House of Many Blessings.” Jim explains, “We hung that up after we spent our first year here and really realized what we were onto.” Both agree the convenience of BIGHORN is unrivaled and that they appreciate the summers as much as the winter season. “BIGHORN feels like the desert meets Hawaii,” Nanette says. “And in the winter I feel like I’m in the mountains when I’m in front of the fireplace.”
The home holds special significance for them as well because when they met each other, they each had a home; Jim sold his house to move into hers. “Buying at BIGHORN was the first time we had ‘our house,’ and that’s an important step in a relationship,” he shares. “This will always be our place that we picked out together and what better a place to have it than here?”
While the bustle of L.A. is only a drive away – where this dynamic duo maintain countless personal and business connections – it is driving back to BIGHORN that truly feels like coming home.