Muellers explore options

Couple consulting lawyers about ASC's change of plans

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— Tim Mueller says he wants to meet with his attorneys before formally responding to American Skiing Co.'s decision Tuesday to back out of its plan to sell the Steamboat Ski Area.

Mueller and his wife, Diane, led a group of investors called Triple Peaks LLC, which had contracted to purchase Steamboat for $91.4 million.

Mueller traveled to New York Tuesday to begin closing the deal, where he was informed by ASC that it would instead sell Heavenly Ski Resort to Vail Resorts Inc. As a result, ASC changed its mind about Steamboat and now intends to retain ownership of the ski area.

Mueller characterized ASC's change of plans as "outrageous" and said he'd been kept in the dark about the developing deal with Vail even as he cooperated with their request to delay the closing.

"We are surprised and disappointed by this action," Mueller said. "Contrary to some reports, we have been ready, willing and able to close this transaction for some time. We had accommodated ASC's request for a temporary postponement, never having an inkling that they were going to breach our agreement. We are presently exploring with our attorneys the best course of action, before formally responding to this outrageous turn of events."

Six days prior to abandoning the Steamboat deal, ASC executives had formally told their investors and stock analysts they intended to close the Steamboat deal within 30 days. Mueller responded by saying he expected the sale to close much sooner than 30 days. It's now clear he was referring to his travel plans for the following week.

Pam Cruickshank, a spokeswoman for the Muellers' Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, said the word "disappointing" doesn't begin to describe her bosses' emotions in the wake of the deal falling apart.

She said the mood in the administrative offices at Okemo on Wednesday was somber because management personnel there had been looking forward to networking with their counterparts in Steamboat. Just the same, Cruickshank said, the Muellers intend to follow through on plans to spend Easter weekend in Steamboat Springs.

Diane Mueller said she believes the demise of the Steamboat sale will have a negative impact on both Ludlow, Vt., and Steamboat Springs.

"We were looking forward to working with the employees and the community at Steamboat to fulfill its vast potential," Diane Mueller said. "To have this thrown at us at this time is devastating to us, our employees and the communities involved."

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