American Skiing Co. explores selling more resorts
Selling its remaining East Coast resorts, the two largest in Maine, would complete the transformation of Park City-based American Skiing Company from the largest operator of alpine resorts in the U.S. to the owner of just The Canyons.
"Here in Maine this has been probably the worst kept secret for the past two or three weeks," said Brad McCurtain, president of Maine Securities Corporation. "Their behavior in selling the five resorts over the past month or so really give us an indication that they aren’t necessarily trying to maximize value for shareholders."
After American Skiing Co. said this week it is looking into selling its Sunday River and Surgarloaf/USA resorts McCurtain speculated that negotiations between the company and its founder and former chairman Leslie Otten broke down.
"One of them walked away from the table," McCurtain said. "They’re just trying to put a little pressure on Otten."
Sunday River was the first of Otten’s accomplishments and formed the basis for American Skiing Company. Otten has since resigned from the board.
Since its inception the publicly traded firm has lost almost $750 million, McCurtain claims. Otten has not returned telephone calls to The Park Record.
"These guys have done nothing but lose money for shareholders since the stock has been in speculative range," McCurtain said. "Their stock price has gone from $18 to pennies."
Meanwhile, American Skiing Co. indicated no strong desire to sell The Canyons. The stock that trades under the symbol AESK was selling Friday for around 75 cents per share on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board.
The New York Stock Exchange de-listed American Skiing Company after the company turned public in 1997.
"As a result of our recently announced resort sales, we’ve received a tremendous amount of interest in our remaining resorts," ASC President and Chief Executive Officer B.J. Fair said.
The company recently completed its sale of Steamboat resort in Colorado and next month expects to complete sales of Vermont’s Killington, Pico Mountain and Mount Snow resorts and Attitash resort in New Hampshire.
"To ensure we maximize the value of these assets, we will commence a review of options for our Maine resort properties," Fair said this week in a prepared statement.
Referring to a lease battle the company is currently entwined in at The Canyons with landowner Kenny Griswold, Fair insisted American Skiing Co. is "continuing our efforts towards successful and favorable resolution of the litigation involving the resort."
For about seven years most equity in American Skiing Company has been controlled by a group based in Texas, known as Oak Hill Capital Partners, McCurtain explained.
"The Canyons is the surviving property and if Oak Hill remains in the game I think that’s the only one they have interest in," he said adding that Oak Hill concentrates on developing real estate. "The Canyons is a very young property in terms of its development."
With corporate offices in Old Town should American Skiing Co. sell its two resorts in Maine the business would likely downsize, said McCurtain, a financial analyst who since it went public has closely watched American Skiing Company.
"Probably their services aren’t going to be needed anymore with just one resort and whether or not they will even remain a publicly traded company is a question," he said. "You’ve had a layer of management structure in there that is not going to be needed."
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