|By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 7, 2007 - American Skiing Co.'s empire is now down to one resort.
With Tuesday's announced sale of Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA resorts in Maine, only The Canyons outside of Park City remains of the eight resorts once amassed by American Skiing founder Les Otten.
The pending $77 million sale to Boyne USA, Inc., former owner and still operator of Brighton Resort, also ends American Skiing's presence in Maine, the state where the company was established and its headquarters were located until relocating to Park City in June 2002.
"You go through our offices here [in Park City] and you hear a lot of folks with that New England accent," said American Skiing spokesman David Hirasawa. "So there's some mixed emotions about seeing Sunday River and Sugarloaf sold. It's tough, in many ways, to see them go."
But it was a necessity, culminating American Skiing's recovery from a heavy debt load.
In selling seven resorts since the beginning of last ski season, the company has raised $499 million to pay off its obligations and to secure working capital for The Canyons, its flagship resort.
"We don't have any more debt," said Hirasawa. "Coming off of these sales, we are very much focused on operating The Canyons . . . and moving forward on the successful resolution of the litigation."
He was referring to a case, pending in Park City's 3rd District Court, that involves 550 acres owned by the D.A. Osguthorpe family and leased to Wolf Mountain, the resort's previous operator, which then subleased it to American Skiing. Although the land is a fraction of the 3,500 acres of The Canyon's ski terrain, it is key to operating the resort, according to court documents.
Wolf Mountain claims American Skiing defaulted on its lease by amending legal agreements with the Osguthorpes without Wolf Mountain operative Kenny Griswold's knowledge, essentially reducing Wolf Mountain's interest "to nothing more than an easement."
American Skiing officials argue that any technical defaults have been cured and Wolf Mountain's claims would cause it "irreparable harm."
The sale of the Maine resorts was not a surprise since American Skiing's board authorized management earlier this year to consider possible offers for the properties.
"We had a lot of interest," Hirasawa said.
American Skiing went with Boyne, he added, partly because of the money involved, but also because of the Michigan company's track record. "Boyne is an experienced operator and one that we feel should enjoy a bright future."
Boyne owned Brighton Resort until mid-January, when it sold the venerable ski area for $35 million to CNL Income Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust. CNL then entered a lease agreement for Boyne to continue operating Brighton, its two restaurants, 20-room lodge, ski-rental facility and a small retail outlet.
In addition to the Maine resorts, Boyne owns six other ski areas.
GETTING OUT OF DEBT
American Skiing Co. retired its debts by raising $499 million this year from the sale of seven of its eight ski resorts. It received:
$265 million for Steamboat in Colorado
$73.5 million for Mount Snow in Vermont, Attitash in New Hampshire
$83.5 million for Killington and Pico in Vermont
$77 million for Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA in Maine
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