Ski Resort Operator Intrawest Downplays Foreclosure Rumors

Vancouver, Canada – Ski resort operator Intrawest ULC is downplaying rumors of imminent foreclosure following ads placed in major newspapers announcing that the company’s creditors will auction their interests in the firm.

Intrawest owns or operates key ski and snowboard resorts across the U.S. and Canada, including Whistler Blackcomb, host site of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, as well as Tremblant in Quebec, Winter Park and Steamboat in Colorado, Vermont’s Stratton Mountain and Snowshoe, West Virginia. It has a 50 percent interest in Blue Mountain, Ontario, and has developed numerous resort and village properties, including the Village at Squaw Valley, California.

The company was acquired in 2006 by Fortress Investment Group LLC, a New York private equity firm, for US $2.8 billion, financed by a US $1.7 billion loan. Fortress defaulted in late October on the loan’s final $524 million payment.

The advertisements claim that lenders, represented by Wilmington Trust FSB, will auction off their financial interests in Intrawest to qualified financial institutions on Feb. 19 during the Olympics held at Whistler.

“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 notice said.

The ads prompted a flurry of news reports Wednesday morning indicating that lenders including Lehman Brothers and Davidson Kempner had seized Intrawest properties and would auction them off in February, which in turn prompted a response from Intrawest.

“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,” Intrawest said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

The company, which is heavily involved in real estate development, has faced financial pressure through the current economic downturn. Last fall Intrawest sold Copper Mountain, Colo. to Park City, Utah-based Powdr Corp.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) also released a statement on Wednesday indicating that the planned auction would have no impact upon the staging of the Olympic Games.

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