Vail CEO resigns: Adam Aron will leave on the date of his 10-year anniversary
VAIL, Colo. – Adam Aron, the Vail Resorts chief executive who oversaw the transition from a private ski area to a publicly traded resort company, announced Monday his resignation effective June 28 – the date of his 10-year anniversary with the company.
In May 2002, Aron, 51, spearheaded the acquisition of Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe from an ailing American Skiing Co. for $102 million in cash and liabilities. The purchase made the Colorado company the second largest ski operator in North America, trailing Intrawest Corp.
Heavenly was Vail’s fifth resort, along with its namesake ski area, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge. The company also owns a controlling interest in the luxury hotel chain Rock Resorts, based in Denver, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson, Wyo.
The Colorado company pledged to infuse $40 million of improvements into the South Lake Tahoe, installing a few chairlifts and upgrading concessionaire amenities. About $32 million has been spent, and more upgrades such as a high-speed chairlift in the North Bowl area are yet to be completed. By the time the planned improvements are made, at least $65 million is anticipated to be put into the mountain resort.
Vail has already started to recruit for Aron’s successor.
“Look for my successor to be bullish about Heavenly like I was. The feeling is Heavenly has enormous potential,” he said.
Aron told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that he’ll leave Heavenly in competent hands – under the direction of Chief Operating Officer Blaise Carrig, who he recruited from Wolf Mountain in Park City, Utah. Carrig declined to comment about Aron’s planned departure.
He cited Heavenly’s surge in skier visits. When Vail took over three years ago, they came in at 830,000 skiers. Last year, more than 1 million were recorded.
The announcement came Monday morning, surprising locals and industry insiders apparently unaware Aron was planning to leave. Aron gave no specific reason for his decision to leave, except that he told the Tribune he wants to spend more time with his family. He’ll also travel.
“I have the most wonderful job in the world, but it’s a very demanding, 24/7 job,” he said. “At some point you need to close the chapter and look back and say, ‘How’d I do?’ “
Aron said he could go out with his “head held high” and listed a number of things he was proud of accomplishing during his tenure – the most important of which, he said, was soothing local fears during the transition to a public company.
“We weren’t the most popular company on the planet when I joined it,” he said. “There was a lot of fear and mistrust about what it would mean as Vail Associates grew and became public.”
A decade later, he said, the answer to those concerns is clear.
“We’re a very popular company locally,” Aron said. “We have our critics, but everyone in the community has benefited from how well we run these ski resorts.”
Vail boasts of having the highest adult daily lift tickets in the nation – $81, The Associated Press reported.
Harry Frampton, who was president of Vail Associates in the 1980s, had nothing but praise for the leadership of Aron and Apollo Partners, the New York investment firm that brought the company public in 1997.
“He done good,” Frampton said, echoing Aron’s thoughts on how the company was perceived in the community. “There was a lot of concern that Adam and Apollo Partners were short timers, and here we are 10 years later – it’s hard not to give Adam and Apollo an extraordinary grade.”
In addition to running Vail Resorts, Aron has been involved in the community and sits on several nonprofit boards, including that of the Vail Valley Foundation.
Before running Vail, the Harvard Business School graduate was president of Norwegian Cruise Line in Coral Gables, Fla. He also worked for United Airlines and Hyatt Hotels.
Aron said he plans to continue with his purchase of a home in the Arrabelle Lodge, currently under construction in Lionshead. He said Monday he had no immediate plans for his next move, other than working over the next five months to make a smooth transition to his successor.
“I want to make sure I really do leave this company in the best shape I can,” Aron said. “After that, there are a number of options open that look to be quite exciting. But I doubt I’ll be working full-time in the Vail Valley.”
Aron said he plans to remain on the board of the foundation and other nonprofits with which he’s associated locally. “I expect to have a strong connection to Vail for the rest of my life,” he said.
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