|By Nick Gevock, The Montana Standard,
ButteMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 9, 2008 - Moonlight Basin Ranch ski development near Big Sky has announced a large scale layoff of its employees because of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the ski resort's primary lender.
Moonlight said in a press release that the layoffs were "painful but necessary" yet added the resort would try to open for the winter ski season.
"As a consequence of Lehman's bankruptcy, access to credit nationwide has been impaired," Moonlight said in a statement. "Like other companies in the same situation, Moonlight Basin has taken a number of steps to insure long-term strength. A temporary reduction in workforce is one of those steps." Lee Poole, Moonlight CEO, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The company did not give specifics of how many employees had been laid off or whether and when they might be rehired.
Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy last month. It was one of the early failings of major banks and financial institutions in the current financial crisis that is rippling through Wall Street.
Now the effects of the credit crunch are being seen closer to home as companies like Moonlight Basin that have to borrow money to pay employees are forced to lay off workers.
Moonlight Basin is a public ski resort located just west of Big Sky Resort. The resort, which opened in 2002, offers skiing, golf and a spa, among other things.
The company headquarters is in Ennis, where it is a major employer. More than 200 people work at the resort and the number swells in the winter when the ski lifts are operating, Moonlight has said.
The loss of those jobs in Ennis will be a major blow to the economy there, Madison County Commissioner Jim Hart said.
"I know many of those employees and they're great folks -- they've all been extremely happy working for Moonlight and now to not have a job is really tough," Hart said. "That has an amazing trickle-down effect throughout the business community." But Sam Korsmoe, director of the Madison County Economic Development Council, said he's confident Moonlight can find another financier to open its ski operation this winter. He said that, although economic times are rough nationwide, people will still want to ski.
"Do we all just stop doing outdoor activities; I don't think so," he said. "You may not buy new skis and just use your old ones, but you're still going to go." And Moonlight is still a bargain for vacationers and local skiers when compared to other destination resorts in the West, Korsmoe added.
"If I were a banker and I saw that and said 'Look, you can generate a lot of cash flow by opening your mountain ... you're a good risk and it's not like you're a startup," he said. "In an economy like this, those businesses that generate cash are hugely important." Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at email@example.com.
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