Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cavendish Update 12/6/08 Okemo Sold

This issue of the Cavendish Update is made possible by the Cavendish Community and Conservation Association (CCCA), a non-profit membership organization that is dedicated to the conservation of land and natural resources and to the preservation of historic sites within the context of sustainable economic growth. FMI: PO Box 605, Cavendish VT 05142 or 802-226-7736

The 12/6/08 Cavendish Update Contains:
1. Okemo sells for $132 M
2. Select Board Agenda 12/8/08
3. Cavendish Tree Lighting and Carol Sing on Sunday 12/7
4. Other Events

1. Okemo sells for $132M
Rutland Herald 12/6/08 By Bruce Edwards
Okemo Mountain Resort, one of Vermont's oldest and largest ski resorts, was sold Friday to CNL Lifestyle Properties of Orlando, Fla.

Triple Peaks owners Tim and Diane Mueller sold the Ludlow resort along with Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire for $132 million.

The sale was first reported in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

The Muellers will continue to manage the three resorts under a 40-year lease-back arrangement with CNL Lifestyle Properties, with Triple Peaks LLC making lease payments to CNL.

"Although we're selling the assets, we're maintaining obviously all the operations and control of the resort and signed a long-term lease," Tim Mueller said Friday in a phone interview from Florida, where he and his wife closed on the sale. "As I say, we look at it as more of a financing arrangement as much as anything since we'll still be in control of the operations."

He also said Triple Peaks retains ownership of much of the developable land around Okemo.

Mueller said the deal with CNL was the best financing option available.

"We could have continued going on the way we were going but we just thought bringing in long-term, stable capital was a better option for us," Mueller said, "particularly in this economic environment where bank financing is relatively short term, the short-term rates and the instability of the market …"

The acquisition gives the Muellers additional capital to build the Red Lady Lodge at Crested Butte and to move forward with the Okemo conference center. CNL is also expected to fund improvements at Mount Sunapee.

CNL Lifestyle spokeswoman Carolyn Gosselin said the Muellers' successful management style caught the attention of the company, making the resorts an attractive acquisition. Gosselin also said Okemo in particular is ideally located near major metropolitan areas.

"The second interest is these are affordable drive-to ski resorts that are very popular," she said. "In particular in this economy many skiers are not flying out west … but they're not going to give up their passion for snow skiing."

In the long-term, Gosselin said CNL's capital infusion will enhance Okemo and make it more of a four-season destination.

She said no changes in personnel or employment at the three resorts are anticipated.

At Ludlow's municipal offices, Town Manager Frank Heald, himself an experienced veteran of the Vermont ski industry, said the news of Okemo's sale and lease-back to the Muellers was a good sign of the area's future health.

"I think we will see very little change as I understand it," said Heald, adding that Okemo executives started calling key people in the Ludlow community Thursday afternoon to tell them of the pending sale.

"When all is said and done, this is a refinancing transaction," said Heald. "Tim and Diane have a total and firm hand on the tiller. Their tenure here in this town, when you add everything up, has been a great thing for Ludlow."

Over at the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, executive director Marji Graf sent an e-mail saying that despite the sale, the Muellers were committed to Okemo.

"Tim and Diane are here to stay," she said.

Parker Riehle of the Vermont Ski Areas Association also views Friday's sale as a positive development.

"It gives Okemo the financial infusion that they need to move ahead with a lot of their strategic on-mountain projects and also other developments such as their conference center which would be a dynamic addition to their resort," said Riehle, the VSAA executive director.

Commissioner Bruce Hyde of the state Department of Tourism and Marketing said the added benefit of the deal is that the Muellers retain management control.

"The Muellers have done a great job of bringing Okemo from really a small skier-day, obscure operation to one of our leading resorts," Hyde said.

Okemo opened in January 1956. The Muellers purchased the ski area in 1982 when it had eight or nine lifts (only three double chair lifts) and 26 trails. Over the last 26 years, the couple has turned the once sleepy ski area into a major ski industry player with 19 lifts and 119 trails and glades. The resort also owns Okemo Valley Golf Club.

"We just had a philosophy of continued but steady, relatively constant growth of building up the product," Mueller said.

He also said CNL has a sound track record in owning ski resorts and golf courses. "They are very good people and we have a lot of confidence in them as well," he said.

The three Triple Peaks resorts had a combined 1.1 million skier visits during the 2007-08 ski season.

CNL Lifestyle Properties is part of CNL Financial Group, one of the nation's largest, privately held real estate investment and development companies. Headquartered in Orlando, Fla., CNL has formed or acquired companies with more than $23 billion in assets, including hotel, retail, restaurant, senior citizen housing and lifestyle properties.

CNL Lifestyle is a real estate investment trust that owns 115 properties in the United States and Canada, including 13 ski areas and eight village-centered retail developments. The portfolio includes Bretton Woods Mountain Resort and Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire, Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA in Maine, Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort and Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort in California.

2. Select Board Agenda 12/8/08
The SB will meet on Monday, Dec. 12 at 6: 30 pm in the Town Office. The Agenda will include:

• Update on water filtration project progress and activities since the previous month’s Selectmen’s meeting of November 10th, 2008.
• Continue discussion regarding the status of the Cavendish First Responders, Cavendish Ambulance and disposition of the ambulance vehicle.
• Discuss schedule for budget meetings and Town Manager goals for the FY09-10 Budget. Begin FY09-10 Budget Process: Select Board to hear requests from various organizations for Fiscal Year 2009-2010 appropriations
• Review and consider draft of a Town of Cavendish Purchasing Policy which was distributed to the Selectmen at the 11/10/08 meeting.
• Updates on various Town projects and activities including: Heald Road Greven Road Extension reclamation work ,winter highway maintenance, highway personnel, follow-up n FD #2 dry hydrant installations
• Review Winter Parking Regulations

3. Cavendish Tree Lighting and Carol Sing on Sunday 12/7
The Cavendish Tree Lighting and Carol Sing will take place on December 7 (Sunday). Starting at 6 pm, the tree and gazebo on the Proctorsville Village Green will be lit. From there, the group will walk the short distance to the Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES), to continue the carol sing and to light Riley’s Tree. The tree, which stands directly in front of the school, is in memory of Riley Bourgois, who died from cancer while a student at CTES. Immediately following will be hot chocolate and cookies at the School. The Cavendish Respect Club, the Cavendish Historical Society, CTES and the town of Cavendish are joint sponsors of this event. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

4. Other Events
December 6 (Saturday): Peace Rally, 3 p.m. in front of the Fletcher Library in Ludlow

December 18 (Thursday): Community Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. at St James United Methodist Church, Main Street, Proctorsville. The menu will consist of turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, butternut squash, peas, a tossed salad and hot rolls, with pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. Beverages will include coffee, hot tea or cider.
A suggested donation of $3.00 for seniors or $4.50 for those under 60 years of age will help defray the cost of this meal.

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