Chief executive for Heavenly’s parent corporation resigns |

Chief executive for Heavenly’s parent corporation resigns

Susan Wood

Les Otten has resigned as chairman and chief executive officer for Heavenly Ski Resort’s parent company, American Skiing Company announced Wednesday.

Otten, who was unavailable for comment, founded the Newry, Maine-based company 21 years ago. He got his start in the industry as a management trainee at Killington in Vermont, one of ASC’s properties.

“Since discussions of the MeriStar merger began last summer, I have been investigating plans outside of American Skiing Company and intend to pursue those options,” he stated.

The ski resort operation abandoned the proposed merger with the hotel management firm Friday, amid concerns it would be unable to secure the necessary financing.

It’s been a bumpy ride in stocks for the highly leveraged company. Its stock has fallen from an initial price of $18 a share from when it went public in 1997 to a closing Tuesday of $1.69.

As it became apparent the company’s falling stock and credit rating may have hampered its ability to raise the necessary funding to seal the deal, the two companies parted amicably.

“The dissolution of the merger may have played a part,” ASC spokesman Skip King said, calling Otten’s resignation a personal move.

But King pointed out that Otten probably would have moved on regardless of whether the merger occurred or not, characterizing Otten as a “hands-on” manager who would have relinquished his CEO role if he stayed on as chairman.

“As he developed the company, he’s been looking for something (else) to do,” King said, referring to Otten’s desire to pass on his creative and visionary instincts to other missions in life.

Otten hasn’t revealed any plans to King, but the company spokesman hasn’t ruled out something adventurous in nature.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate. But from what I know about Les, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did something like that,” he said.

In the meantime, Otten wished the company well and assured staffers and investors that he’s confident his replacement would “continue to improve (the company) as it moves into its next phase of development.”

One of North America’s largest operator of ski areas, the company runs nine resorts nationwide. It tapped a former Universal Studios executive who has worked as the ASC chief operating officer to now run the company.

Prior to working at the Universal City amusement park, William “B.J.” Fair served as the director of business planning for Walt Disney Imagineering. He also spent four years in the Disney Development division. According to the park, Fair was instrumental in securing the expansion of the entertainment giant into Anaheim.

“B.J. Fair’s appointment as chief executive is a natural progression in the company’s management structure. He brings an exceptional level of experience in both resort management and real estate development to the company,” ASC board member Steven Gruber stated.

In keeping with a corporate request, Heavenly management declined to comment on Otten’s departure or the shift in personnel.

“Although the company faces near-term challenges, I am confident that substantial shareholder value can be created at American Skiing during the next few years. I am eager to work closely with the rest of the senior management team to achieve our game plan,” Fair stated.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.