|By Jim Workman, The Register-Herald,
Beckley, W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 26, 2012--The Greenbrier and Wintergreen Resort are now a part of the same family.
On Friday, James C. Justice II, chairman, president and CEO of James C. Justice Companies Inc. and The Greenbrier resort, along with L. Allen Bennett Jr., chairman of Wintergreen Partners Inc., announced the signing of a merger agreement which provides for the acquisition of Wintergreen Resort in Virginia by the Justice family.
The purchase price is reported to be $16.5 million for the entire property.
The agreement has been approved by the Wintergreen Partners Inc. Board of Directors and will be presented to the Class A Equity members of Wintergreen on June 24 for approval. The closing of the transaction is scheduled to take place before June 30.
Two golf courses at Wintergreen Resort certainly add to Justice's other golf properties, which include The Resort at Glade Springs, Black Knight Country Club, and Brier Patch Golf Links in Raleigh County.
Also, The Greenbrier boasts four golf courses including The Old White TPC, home of the PGA TOUR FedExCup event held in July, The Greenbrier Classic.
"(At Wintergreen) There's an 18-hole course on top of the mountain where the ski slope is," Justice said. "And there's 27 (additional) holes of golf on the valley floor."
A collegiate golfer in his younger days at the University of Tennessee and Marshall University, Justice had an experience at Wintergreen Resort as an adult that he still cherishes.
"My dad and I played a tournament there once, in about 1992 or 1993," he recalled. "It was one of the last times I got to play golf with my dad. We got to stay there. It was the only time I'd been there. It was really meaningful to me. The course on the mountain may be one of the most beautiful courses I've ever played. It truly is unbelievable; it's spectacular."
Like Glade Springs and The Greenbrier, residences are available at Wintergreen Resort.
"There's about 200 developable lots that can be marketed," Justice said.
Wintergreen Resort's location was appealing to Justice.
"It's two hours exactly from The Greenbrier," said Justice. "The plans are to run shuttles back and forth (to Wintergreen) from The Greenbrier as well as to Snowshoe -- both trips are about the same (distance). The advantage with Wintergreen is that its two hours are on mostly interstate. It makes for a little more pleasant ride.
"From our standpoint, we feel like it's a strategic, good move on our part," he said. "Wintergreen is between Richmond, Charlottesville and (Washington) D.C. It is a huge marketing areas for us. A big part of our guests at The Greenbrier come from those areas.
"They had approached me before and I really didn't have much of an interest," Justice added. "But I started thinking about it. They do have a good bit of developable property and it's in a wonderful location, between two significant population centers. And it's in striking distance of The Greenbrier. Our marketing ability will be in play there.
"The D.C. market is becoming huge for us. We're in the process of opening an office in D.C. We'll have people on the ground there doing a lot of our marketing efforts right there in D.C.
"All this plays naturally with that connection."
Justice had good news for the approximately 1,900 members at Wintergreen Resort.
"They're trusting, good members of Wintergreen," he said. "They've grown to love it. I want good things for those people. By us being able to make this transaction, Wintergreen will be preserved for those members and others as well. It's a good day for those members. This will give them some security instead of uncertainty. Their investment will be secure.
"Those members could have lost a lot if it would have fallen into bankruptcy or if it would have been parceled out," Justice added. "This way, they'll be able to sleep easy and know the place they've grown to love will stay intact and they'll be able to enjoy it for years to come."
"We are delighted by the vision which the Justice family is bringing to the resort," said Bennett, via press release. "While we've had our own challenges over the past several months, we are gratified to have found an excellent business partner who has provided Wintergreen with the opportunity to grow, while at the same time preserving the family-oriented nature of our community. We share a common outlook on the potential for growth in central Virginia, and look forward to working together to take Wintergreen to the next level."
According to the press release, Wintergreen Resort "is a four-season mountain retreat with beautiful views on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Situated on 11,000 acres adjacent to the George Washington National Forest, the resort offers a unique vacation, social and conference setting with skiing, snowboarding and tubing, 45 holes of championship golf, a tennis center with three indoor courts and 19 outdoor clay courts, a full-service spa featuring 13 treatment rooms, a fitness center, and multiple dining options. Additional amenities include a lake, swimming pools, a youth entertainment center, and 40,000 square feet of combined indoor/outdoor meeting space."
Justice expressed hope that Wintergreen Resort will benefit The Greenbrier, especially in the winter months, the traditionally slower tourism season in White Sulphur Springs.
"That's one of the thoughts too," Justice said. "We're trying to solve the riddle of January, February and March. This helps with that. We're trying to solve the occupancy for the entire year riddle. The DC/Charlottesville/Richmond area fits there too.
"We're going to explore the synergies (between the resorts) that will make sense. We've thought about an expanded deal -- to kind of compete with a place like Myrtle Beach -- where people could play three courses at Glade Springs, a possibility of four courses at The Greenbrier, and play at Black Knight and Brier Patch in Beckley if you wanted to. Then you could go to Wintergreen and play a couple of courses there too.
"It would be a neat little golf trail of the Virginias. There's a lot of different aspects that make sense."
For more information about Wintergreen, visit http://www.wintergreenresort.com.
(c)2012 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.)
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