|Intrawest assets seized by lenders, including Olympic ski resort in Whistler|
|Written by Administrator|
|Wednesday, 20 January 2010 21:35|
By The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER, B.C. - Lenders have seized the assets of Intrawest ULC, including the Whistler ski resort that will be home to the Olympic downhill races next month.
Intrawest says it will be "business as usual," despite the possibility the high-end B.C. resort will be on the auction block as Olympians grace its slopes.
"Fortress Investment Group continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties. Serious discussions with Intrawest's lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing and the company continues to operate 'business as usual' at all of its resort properties," the company said in a statement released Wednesday.
"Intrawest is looking forward to the success of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games."
Members of the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee said they were not concerned.
"I've reviewed all the facts, I've looked into all the actions that can be taken and they take time, they just don't happen overnight," said Dan Doyle, executive vice-president of construction for VANOC.
They also said a report that they were going to withhold the money they owe Intrawest for use of the mountain was untrue.
A public notice has been posted in newspapers by the company's lenders saying that an auction to sell the assets will be held on Feb. 19, right in the midst of the Olympics, which begin Feb. 12.
Vancouver-based Intrawest, which is owned by private equity firm Fortress Investment Group LLC, reportedly missed payments last month that were due on a US$1.4-billion loan.
The group of lenders, which includes Lehman Brothers and Davidson Kempner, 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.
The sale includes more than a dozen resort properties including Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado and Squaw Valley in California.
Intrawest has been struggling with financial problems since it was bought by Fortress in 2006 for US$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 meltdown hit.
Around that time, travellers also began to tighten their budgets and cancel vacation plans, which squeezed the entire industry.
In reaction, many of Intrawest's resorts significantly slashed their prices to encourage more visitors.
Last summer, chief executive Bill Jensen told a ski industry conference that signs of a recovery wouldn't likely appear until the 2011-12 season.
Intrawest has sold several assets in order to meet the payments, including a resort at Copper Mountain, Colo., and two resorts in France.
In December, the company said it was in an "active dialogue" with its lenders after rumours began surfacing that the company was about to default.