Saddleback ski area might get back in business with another new prospective buyer
The purchase price was not disclosed. The ski area has been closed since 2015.
From the Portland Press Herald
An investment firm from Boston has made an offer to buy Saddleback Mountain, stating that they’ll invest between $25 million to $30 million after the sale to help restart the Rageley ski resort, now closed for four years.
The property is owned by the Berry family. The details of what Arctaris Impact Fund is offering to the Berry family has been disclosed in an email to the owners of Saddleback condos. The email was sent by Andy Shepard, CEO of the Outdoors Sports Institute and Tom Federle, a Portland attorney who have been working with Arctaris trying to purchase the ski area.
Saddleback was Maine’s third largest ski resort offering lots of local jobs and drawing thousands of tourists each winter while it was opened.
Shepard would not confirm the terms and conditions of the purchase – only that the $500 million investment group wants to buy the ski mountain and can afford it. The purchase price was not disclosed.
“Tom Federle and I have been quietly trying to find a buyer for the mountain for the last four years and connected with Arctaris last fall. We have been very impressed with their commitment and capacity to not only buy the mountain but doing so with a long-term view to make the mountain successful,” said Shepard, the former CEO of the Maine Winter Sports Center, in an email Friday. “Arctaris is the real deal and I’m hopeful for the Berry family and for the people of western Maine that we can get a deal done.”
Federle owns a condo in Saddleback. Shepard said his interest in the deal is in “preserving one of Maine’s most remarkable ski mountains and the role it plays in the economy of the region, an interest shared by Tom.”
Saddleback, owned by Irene and Bill Berry of Farmington, has been on the market since July 2015. The ski mountain – one of the largest in Maine with an elevation of 4,120 feet – has not been open since the 2014-2015 season.
Arctaris is an investment firm which works with banks, foundations and economic development agencies to revitalise communities. As the Portland Press Herald stated on its article, ‘the firm expressed interest in buying the property last summer, but at the time said a deal was predicated on getting approval from the state for certain tax breaks offered under the newly designated Opportunity Zones. But former Gov. Paul LePage, who had the authority to designate which Census tracts could be included in the tax program, declined to include any communities in Franklin County and Arctaris withdrew its interest.’
An Arctaris’ email to Shepard and Federle was shared Tuesday with the Rock Pond Condo association owners, who have homes on Saddleback Mountain, to show Arctaris’ desire to buy Saddleback. The Portland Press Herald obtained a copy of the email. It included a section from Tower, who spelled out the offer and process it hopes to follow to close the deal.
Among the assurances offered by Tower in the email thread were:
- The fund has the capacity to close the deal and would use its own capital to fund the purchase – it does not need any financing through the New Markets Tax Credit or Opportunity Zone tax programs.
- It expects it will take 120 days to close the transaction, although it is unclear in the email the date of the offer.
- There is significant support from non-profits and the broader community to help pay for improvements to the chairlift system.
Tower notes as well that the returns on the fund’s investment will be challenged by the resort being closed for so long, the costs that will incur the firm for upgrading the resort and the uncertainty of the future real estate sales.
Tower wrote: “Despite Saddleback’s considerable challenges, Arctaris believes that there is a path to reopening Saddleback which includes combining our capital with the philanthropic contributions from the Rangeley community. For scale, we are budgeting for a $25-30 million investment plan over the medium term that would include a $3-5 million philanthropic component. … Arctaris is uniquely suited to lead this type of bold initiative that will help to stabilize the Rangeley community, bringing back local businesses, jobs, and real estate values.”
A Rock Pond Condo association owner on Saddleback, Luke Labbe, said that this was the second time that Arctaris included the condo association owners in sale talks, making him believe that the firm is serious about becoming Saddleback owner.
“They are interested, and they have recently included condo owners in the discussions to help influence a sale with Mark Berry,” Labbe said Tuesday in an email. “It would be a huge shot of energy and excitement to not only the Rangeley Region, but to skiers all over the great state of Maine and all over the country, quite frankly, who call Saddleback their home ski mountain.”
Saddleback offers 2,000 vertical feet of vertical drop and some of the toughest expert terrain in the East. It also provides a large employment opportunity in the county as the third-largest employer with as many as 350 employees during the winter.
The Berrys announced they were in a sales agreement in June 2017 to the Australia developer the Majella Group, but that never materialised. And its CEO, Sebastian Mounsour, who promised to make Saddleback the ‘premier ski resort on North America’ was arrested later in Australia for fraud after allegedly misusing $5 million from a Chinese developer.
In October 2016, the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, a group of Rangeley business and Saddleback season-pass holders, announced they reached a verbal deal with the Berry family to purchase the ski area and the land around it – buying the core ski area for 46 million. The same deal was including the Trust for Public Land and the New England Forestry Foundation reaching an agreement with the Berrys to purchase another 3,249 acres around the ski area to preserve as conservation land, although the price had not been specified.
In both cases, the purchase and sales agreement were never signed.
More information: Portland Press Herald.
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