Ski area back on the market

American Skiing Co. announces it will try to sell Steamboat resort

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— Five years after American Skiing Company last hung a 'For sale' sign on the Steamboat Ski Area, it's on the market again.

American Skiing Co. officials confirmed today they have retained the investment banking firm Bear Stearns & Company to market the sale of the Steamboat Ski Area. The ski area is one of eight owned by publicly traded ASC, which is based in Park City, Utah.

"American Skiing Company is coming off its second straight record year, which has created a number of opportunities for us to pursue," American Skiing Company CEO B.J. Fair said in a news release. "Given current positive market conditions and Steamboat's outstanding performance, the board of directors has decided to review potential alternatives with respect to Steamboat and engage financial advisors to assist in that process.

"Our intent is to drive the maximum value for the company's shareholders."

Fair was in Steamboat on Friday to share the news with Steamboat employees.

The company last sought to sell Steamboat as part of the financial reorganization of debt-straddled ASC in May 2001. The sale to Triple Peaks LLC for $91.4 million was scheduled to go through in March 2002, but ASC backed out at the last minute. Instead of selling Steamboat to a group led by Tim and Diane Mueller of Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt., ASC opted to sell Heavenly Mountain Resort in California to Vail Resorts.

The abandoned deal led to a lawsuit, which was finally settled for cash in July 2004. The terms of the settlement give the Muellers 30 days to take part in exclusive negotiations with ASC for the purchase of the Steamboat Ski Area.

Tim Mueller said Friday he and his wife had not determined whether they were interested in pursuing a purchase of Steamboat a second time around.

"If we decide we're interested, we'll be serious," he said.

The clock is ticking on the 30 days, but the Muellers have not reviewed current financials.

"The price, I'm sure, is much different," he said. "Everything is different."

The Muellers purchased Crested Butte Mountain Resort in the spring of 2004, and are in the midst of aggressive expansion plans. The sole investors in Crested Butte Mountain Resort, they are building a new base village and exploring a ski terrain expansion. Mueller said the events surrounding the last sale contract do not color his outlook on Steamboat.

"What happened four years ago happened four years ago," Mueller said. "It's a whole new deal, and we would approach it with a fresh attitude and fresh eyes, should we go forward."

Bear Stearns can be expected to screen prospective buyers before making Steamboat's financials available to them.

Following is a timeline showing the ownership history of the Steamboat Ski Area

Jan. 12, 1963
-- Storm Mountain, under local ownership, opens for business with one double chairlift, Bear Claw and Poma lift. Receipts for the first day were $13.75.

1969
-- LTV Recreational Development Inc. buys properties and begins $10 million in development of the Steamboat Village Resort.

1979
-- Northwest Colorado Ski Corporation purchases the ski area from LTV, changes name to Steamboat Ski Corporation.

1989
-- Kamori Kanko Co. Ltd. purchases Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

1997
-- American Skiing Company purchases Steamboat from Kamori International. ASC becomes a publicly traded company.

May 2001
-- American Skiing Company announced it had retained an investment banking firm to handle the sale of the Steamboat Ski Area as part of its company-wide financial restructuring.

October 2001
-- Tim and Diane Mueller, owners of the Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt., confirmed they had formed an investment group to pursue the purchase of Steamboat. They had a financial interest in the Catamount Ranch and Club development south of Steamboat Springs.

February 2002
-- The Muellers came to Steamboat to announce the signing of a contract to purchase the ski area for $91.4 million.

March 2002
-- American Skiing Company backed out of the deal on closing day, announcing it would instead sell Heavenly Mountain Resort near Lake Tahoe, Calif., to Vail Resorts.

April 2002
-- Triple Peaks LLC and the Muellers sued American Skiing Company to seek to have their purchase contract for Steamboat enforced.

July 2004
-- American Skiing Company announced it had reached a cash settlement with Triple Peaks, effectively ending the protracted legal action over the abandoned sale. ASC had set aside $5 million as a contingency against just such a settlement. The Muellers had already moved on, purchasing Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

July 14, 2006
-- American Skiing Company officials announce their plans to sell the Steamboat Ski Area. ASC has retained the investment banking firm Bear Stearns & Company to market the sale of the ski resort.


To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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