ASC stock tumbles further

Officials remain mum on sale of Steamboat Ski Area

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— American Skiing Co.'s stock price lost 12.5 percent of its value Tuesday and fell to a 12-month low of 42 cents in the wake of news that it faces possible delisting by the New York Stock Exchange.

ASC's increasingly difficult financial situation ratchets up the pressure for the company to accomplish its sale of the Steamboat Ski Area, which has been pending since Nov. 1.

ASC has pledged the proceeds of the sale to de-leverage its stifling debt.

Steamboat Ski Area officials remained tight lipped about the status of sale negotiations this week.

Tim and Diane Mueller, owners of Okemo Mountain, Vt., signed a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase Steamboat on Nov. 1. Parties on both sides of the deal have acknowledged that tight credit markets have made it difficult to assemble financing for the purchase.

Nick Schoewe, a Steamboat-based partner of the Muellers in another business venture, would not shed light on the negotiations Tuesday.

Reached at home Tuesday evening, Schoewe said, "I really can't comment. I don't think you'll have to wait too long."

The Rutland (Vt.) Herald recently reported that the Muellers have formed a new corporation in anticipation of acquiring Steamboat. In addition to Okemo, the Muellers operate Mount Sunapee Ski Area in Newbury, N.H., which they lease from the state of New Hampshire. Steamboat would represent their third ski area and the new company is named accordingly: Triple Peaks.

The Muellers, together with Schoewe and another Steamboat resident with Vermont connections, Lyman Orton, are among the original investors in Catamount Ranch and Club.

Tim Mueller told the Rutland Herald that he is working with a consortium of banks to finance the Steamboat purchase. Key Bank of Cleveland is the lead lender, he said. Others include Fleet and Banknorth Group.

It became apparent during the first week in January that the Muellers were not alone in their pursuit of Steamboat.

A second bidder had joined or rejoined the chase for Steamboat, according to Moody's Investor's Service.

The existence of a second active bidder this late in the game came out in Moody's report announcing it had downgraded ASC's debt ratings.

Two other entities known to be in the hunt for Steamboat last fall included investment banking firms Babcock and Brown of San Francisco and Goldner Hawn & Johnson of Minneapolis.

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