Lenders to seize Olympic ski resort in Whistler
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Whistler ski resort, which will be home to the Olympic downhill races next month, is among the assets of Intrawest ULC being seized by the company’s lenders.
A public notice of foreclosure has been posted in newspapers by the company’s lenders, which include Lehman Brothers, saying that an auction to sell the assets will be held Feb. 19, right in the midst of the Olympics.
The Intrawest properties also include the venues for bobsledding and luge.
Intrawest said in a statement Wednesday that it is in talks with its lenders and that it is operating “business as usual” and is “looking forward to the success of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”
Intrawest said its parent, Fortress Investment Group, continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties, but the group of lenders said they hope for a speedy sale of Intrawest in one transaction.
“Each qualified bidder must be a financial institution or other entity that has the financial wherewithal to purchase the membership interests in immediately available funds on the closing date,” the public auction notice said.
Fortress could potentially forestall a sale by coming up with money. Intrawest reportedly missed payments last month that were due on a $1.4 billion loan.
Dan Doyle, the Vancouver organizing committee’s executive vice president of construction, dismissed concerns about whether the Games could still be held on the property.
“It doesn’t make very good business sense for people to put them out of business at the time of the year when they’re making their most earnings,” Doyle said following the local organizing committee board’s final meeting before the Games.
Doyle said bankruptcy doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s a long process, it’s a process that takes months. Given all of that, we’re very confident that the Games will go on at those two venues in Whistler, and they’ll go on with the co-operation of the people that are running the mountain,” he said, noting that Games organizers have sought legal advice on the situation.
Vancouver-based Intrawest is owned by New York private equity firm Fortress Investment Group LLC. Intrawest has been struggling with financial problems since it was bought by Fortress in 2006 for $2.8 billion in cash and debt.
The deal was a leveraged buyout with a $1.7 billion loan which came due in late 2008, around the time when the financial crisis hit.
Intrawest has sold several assets in order to meet the payments, including a resort at Copper Mountain, Colo., and two resorts in France.