ASC digs out from extensive debt

Steamboat the first of several sales that will shrink company

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— The sale of the Steamboat Ski Area is the linchpin deal in American Skiing Company's efforts to shed assets and transform the company into a much smaller, debt-free operation.

ASC netted $239.1 million from the $265 million transaction after adjustments were made for fees, working capital and assumed debt by Intrawest, according to documents ASC filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

All of the proceeds went to pay off debt, said David Hirasawa, spokesman for ASC in Park City, Utah.

On Feb. 16, ASC announced it plans to sell Vermont's Mount Snow ski resort and New Hampshire's Attitash ski resort to Peak Resorts for $73.5 million. Four days later, ASC announced it was selling Vermont ski resorts Killington and Pico Mountain to SP Land Company for $83.5 million.

The proceeds from those sales will be used to retire the company's remaining debt, Hirasawa said. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released Monday, ASC had $337.7 million in debt as of Jan. 28. It anticipates raising $422 million from the sale of Steamboat and the four New England resorts, the filing said.

ASC was, at one time, one of the largest ski companies in North America. But the announced sales, if all are consummated, will reduce ASC's holdings to just three resorts - The Canyons in Park City and Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine.

There is speculation that ASC is shopping Sugarloaf and Sunday River. That speculation was driven in large part by Monday's announcement that Leslie "Les" Otten, who founded the company and was its CEO until 2001, has stepped down from ASC's Board of Directors.

Otten, whose purchase of Sunday River in 1980 became the foundation for ASC's creation, is reported to be interested in acquiring the Maine resorts. Otten could not negotiate to buy the resorts if he was still active on ASC's board.

Hirasawa said he would not comment on ASC's plans for Sugarloaf and Sunday River.

ASC's stock price closed Thursday at 69 cents a share, down six cents from Wednesday.

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