Deer Valley Resort to be acquired by newly formed multi-resort entity
Bob Wheaton, president and general manager, says deal represents an opportunity for the iconic ski area
Deer Valley Resort announced Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by a large multi-resort entity, a move that is certain to reverberate through Park City and is the latest in a series of high-profile acquisitions that have reshuffled the ski industry.
According to a press release, the entity is a newly formed venture comprising affiliates of the private equity firm KSL Capital Partners, LLC, and Henry Crown and Company, which recently partnered to acquire Intrawest Resort Holdings, Inc., Mammoth Resorts and Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.
Deer Valley Resort, often ranked among the best ski areas in North America, is currently owned by Royal Street Corporation and Red Gables Corporation.
Financial terms of the deal, expected to be finalized before ski season, were not disclosed. Solitude Mountain Resort, which Deer Valley Resort owns, is not included in the transaction.
Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley, said in an interview with The Park Record that the deal represents a monumental moment for the resort.
“I really do think this is an opportunity that will be really good for Deer Valley and everybody involved moving into the future,” said Wheaton, the longtime face of the resort, who will retain his position as general manager under the new ownership.
The announcement comes amid a time of consolidation and change in the ski industry, as large companies continue to snatch up prized resorts. Recently, for instance, Vail Resorts — which bought Park City Mountain Resort in 2015 — purchased world-renowned ski areas Whistler Blackcomb in Canada and Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.
Meanwhile, KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company earlier this year acquired one of the largest resort operators in the country: Intrawest Resort Holdings, Inc. That deal, which included a number of prominent resorts, led to the creation of the multi-resort entity — which as of now is nameless — set to purchase Deer Valley.
“Not too long ago, to own two ski resorts was pretty unique,” Wheaton said. “… It turned from a fully independently owned industry to one that would be able to consolidate ownership and provide opportunities not only for the staff at the resorts but also for the guests. This is just the next logical step in that progression.”
Wheaton said the changing landscape presented Deer Valley with an opportunity that was too good to forgo after decades of spurning interest from a number of suitors that desired to buy the resort. Talks with the multi-resort entity became serious within the last several months.
“When high-profile resorts started to get acquired, and the value of these resorts was being realized in the marketplace, we started getting phone calls — very credible phone calls,” he said. “Deer Valley was not officially for sale, and it was never marketed for sale.”
He added that Deer Valley was well positioned for the future regardless of ownership, but the acquisition only strengthens the resort’s standing.
Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, said in an interview that Utah has benefitted from the trend toward consolidation and that he wasn’t concerned about a large entity purchasing one of the state’s flagship resorts.
“Based on two consecutive all-time records (for skier days), consolidation has worked out pretty well for the Utah ski industry,” he said, referencing Vail Resort’s purchase of PCMR. “I expect that to continue with this newest acquisition.”
Some skiers reacted to the announcement with a measure of skepticism. But Wheaton said that both guests and employees can expect the same Deer Valley experience. According to the press release, season passes for the upcoming season will be honored, there are no plans to allow snowboarding at the resort and operations will remain the same.
Rafferty said he spoke extensively with Wheaton Monday and was encouraged to learn the resort was not planning any major operational changes.
“The idea that things will remain status quo up there for Deer Valley is a good thing,” he said. “They’ve proven themselves as incredible resort operators. And the (entity) that bought them also has a proven track record.”
Deer Valley will join more than 10 ski resorts the privately held multi-resort entity owns and operates. The properties include Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Squaw Valley Ski Resort in California and Steamboat Resort in Colorado. Wheaton said the values of the venture align with Deer Valley’s longstanding mission of delivering a first-class guest experience in an ethical way that lifts the community.
“I would really encourage anybody that’s interested to go online and Google both the KSL (Capital Partners) group and the Crown family,” he said. “I think what they’ll see is commensurate goals of everybody involved.”
David Perry, president and chief operating officer of the multi-resort entity, said in the release that acquiring Deer Valley is a triumph for the new venture.
“Deer Valley Resort is one of the preeminent mountain resorts in the world and is a tremendous addition to our existing portfolio,” he said. “Prior to this acquisition, we were able to offer our guests exceptional experiences throughout most of North America’s major ski regions, but we did not have a resort in Utah, a state that is renowned for great skiing and mountain town life.”
Wheaton spoke to The Park Record Monday morning about the transaction. An audio clip of the conversation is below.
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Vail Resorts has entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding stock of Peak Resorts. Through the acquisition, Vail Resorts will add 17 U.S. ski areas to its network of resorts.