An epic deal
July 18, 2007
Empire Pass developer Talisker Corporation has agreed to pay Park City-based American Skiing Company $100 million for The Canyons, thrusting the firm into a heated courtroom battle between ASC and its landlord, Wolf Mountain Resorts.
To complete the deal American Skiing Co. needs permission from Wolf Mountain Resorts Managing Partner Kenny Griswold, who leases ASC ski terrain he owns at The Canyons.
"Wolf needs to consent to this," said Tim Vetter, a vice president at The Canyons, in an interview Tuesday.
But Wolf Mountain and American Skiing Co. are entwined in litigation after Griswold tried to end the lease last year, claiming his tenant was in default. Talisker would assume responsibility for the litigation should the sale of The Canyons go through, officials at ASC said.
Talisker would purchase all of American Skiing Co.’s stock in The Canyons and American Skiing Company Resort Properties, Inc., documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission state.
Talisker, a privately held real estate development and investment firm, which has built in Park City since 2000, acquired United Park City Mines in 2003.
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"I think that Talisker’s reputation speaks for itself," American Skiing Co. spokesman David Hirasawa said.
Still, Talisker operates no ski resorts, Hirasawa added.
"Somebody is not going to spend $100 million and then shut the doors," said Vetter when asked if The Canyons would open next season.
But Vetter couldn’t confirm which employees would still have jobs if the resort changes hands. This week, Scott Pierpont, president of The Canyons, announced his resignation.
"Who is going to run it? We don’t know right now," Hirasawa said on Tuesday about the future operator at The Canyons. "We just announced this yesterday. This transaction came up very quickly, and it’s just too early to tell."
Griswold said he will "very excitedly" consent to the deal if Talisker recruits a "world-class" resort operator.
"We had an insolvent operator," Griswold said in a telephone interview from his home in Southern California. "If there is an operator that can boost confidence and can get the golf course built and efficiently operate the resort without burdensome debt, then I’m thrilled We’re very excited about a great operator."
Vetter wouldn’t comment about whether he expects Griswold to allow the resort to be sold, adding, "we don’t know if Wolf has any objections at all."
But the sale of The Canyons is a long way from closing, Griswold claimed.
"It’s a shame that American Skiing Company has felt a need to mislead the community the same way they have with the lease and the lawsuit," Griswold said. "I am very excited that American Skiing Company finally, once and for all, is acknowledging that they are in fact a seller after they have denied it all these months."
Griswold said Wolf Mountain will "aggressively" pursue its litigation with American Skiing Co.
"I think the community has been desperate to believe things that weren’t especially true," Griswold said.
He said he will likely terminate the lease "when" he wins the lawsuit.
"When Wolf Mountain prevails, what would Talisker own?" Griswold asked.
Officials at American Skiing Company, who recently announced their plans to dissolve the publicly traded company, wouldn’t comment about the pending litigation.
"Once the transaction closes, Talisker would assume responsibility for the litigation," Hirasawa said.
American Skiing Co. has tried to sell The Canyons since announcing the sale of its Steamboat resort in Colorado last December, Griswold claimed.
But Hirasawa called the pending transaction "unsolicited."
"We anticipate business as usual for The Canyons and bringing the Talisker experience to this prominent resort," Talisker Corp. Chairman and CEO Jack Bistricer said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.