At a glance
Hedge fund: A partnership of investors who pool large sums for speculating in securities, often taking large risks, as by buying with borrowed funds or selling short.
Source: Webster's New World College Dictionary
Fortress' Web site gives this information about its hedge fund segment:
The hedge fund business is comprised of two business segments: (i) hybrid hedge funds - which include two sets of funds, one set that makes highly diversified investments globally in undervalued and distressed assets, including loans, assets and corporate securities and another set of funds that invest with a broad mandate, similar to endowment portfolios of large universities; and (ii) liquid hedge funds which invest globally in fixed income, currency, equity and commodity markets and related derivatives to capitalize on imbalances in the financial markets.
Steamboat Springs Fortress Investment Group, the company at the top of the hierarchy that owns the Steamboat Ski Area, officials told investors they can't get their money back from several of its funds.
It's unclear what effect that could have locally. Fortress, a public hedge fund and private equity firm, is the parent company of Intrawest, which is the parent company of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.
The Associated Press reported that in a regulatory filing Wednesday, Fortress said it received requests totaling $3.51 billion in redemptions to investors for November and December. The redemptions would come from Fortress' Drawbridge Global Macro Master Fund Ltd., Drawbridge Global Macro Fund Ltd., Drawbridge Global Macro Fund LP and Drawbridge Global Alpha Fund V Ltd.
That dollar amount would nearly wipe out the funds given current asset levels, the AP reported, so Fortress' board suspended redemptions. Based on an anticipated restructuring of the funds, Fortress Investment Group estimates that the funds' assets under management as of Jan. 1 will be only about $3.65 billion.
Intrawest spokesman Ian Galbraith said Thursday that the issue was Fortress' to handle.
"There's no impact on our business whatsoever," Galbraith said.
The Vancouver, B.C.-based Intrawest runs 11 North American resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia and Copper Mountain and Winter Park.
Intrawest has faced its own money concerns. The company refinanced $1.7 billion in debt in October. Last month, Intrawest announced layoffs and "realignments" in its work force. That affected 16 Steamboat Ski Area employees, Ski Corp. officials confirmed.
According to its Web site, New York-based Fortress Investment Group had about $34.3 billion in assets under management as of Sept. 30. Investor Relations Director Lilly Donohue did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
On Wednesday, the company's shares declined more than 20 percent after news of the suspension. Fortress shares were up 2 cents, or 1.07 percent, to $1.89 when trading closed Thursday.
Fortress is one of a few publicly traded hedge funds. There are advantages to remaining private, said David Shepard, an adviser with Callahan Capital Management in Steamboat.
"If I were to start a hedge fund that was doing well, I would want to retain as much capital as possible," Shepard said. "If I had the ability to raise capital privately, I would certainly favor that. Also, there's greater regulation on publicly traded companies than there are on private companies."
Jackson Turner, an analyst who monitors Fortress for New York-based Argus Research Company, predicted a challenging future for the company.
"I think that this will probably increase the pace of redemptions in Fortress' other funds other than Drawbridge Global Macro, because investors are losing their confidence in Fortress as a franchise," Turner said.
If investors pull back, he said, that's "that much less capital that Fortress will have on hand to give Intrawest" if, for example, a slow ski season affects resorts' finances.
Turner said he didn't expect Fortress to sell Intrawest.
"Certainly it's a possibility, however, for Intrawest, I don't think there's any potential buyers out there," he said. "Because who's got the money or interest to buy a ski resort right now?"