Pacific Group Resorts Wins Auction for Jay Peak with $76 Million Bid
Jay will become group’s sixth ski area if court approves bid
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Pacific Group Resorts (PGRI), the owner of five North American ski areas, yesterday beat out two unknown bidders to win the long-awaited auction for Jay Peak Resort in Vermont. Their final bid was $76 million.
“We began pursuing this acquisition over three years ago and couldn’t be more pleased with the auction’s outcome, which paves the way to add Jay Peak to our growing family of resorts,” said PGRI President and CEO Vern Greco. “Jay has a high-quality team of dedicated employees who have weathered the uncertainty of the receivership for a long time. We look forward to bringing renewed stability to the property and its staff, we’re enthusiastic about the prospects for the resort, and we are delighted to be in Vermont, which is an important market for any mountain resort operator.”
PGRI’s opening bid was $58 million. The final, $76 million bid is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court in Florida. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 16.
“With the success of this auction, we are one step closer to concluding the receivership of Jay Peak Resort,” said court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg, who has supervised Jay’s six years in legal limbo after an EB-5 scandal under the previous owner. “It has been six long years during which the resort has made tremendous progress under the leadership of general manager Steve Wright and his team and the guidance of Leisure Hotels. The time had come to put the resort back into private hands, and our investment bank, Houlihan Lokey, ran a strong sale process for us culminating in a very competitive auction. We are pleased an experienced operating company like Pacific Group Resorts ended up with this great asset.”
A PGRI press release today confirmed that the company expected to close the transaction prior to this coming ski season. Indy Pass holders have nothing to fear in the immediate term: the resort is already contracted through this coming winter.
“No major changes are contemplated to the winter operating plan at Jay Peak,” said Greco. “All existing season passes, pass reciprocity, and multi-resort pass arrangements at Jay, including the Indy Pass, will be honored for the 2022-23 winter season.”
Indy Pass founder and President Doug Fish offered quick praise to Jay’s new ownership group. “PGRI is one of the best ownership groups in the U.S.,” he told The Storm Skiing Journal. “Their management of indie resorts is highly respected across the industry, and we would be honored to work with them and any of their mountains, including of course, Jay Peak. We are looking forward to our third year this coming season with Jay Peak on the Indy Pass and hope that our partnership will continue for years to come.”
PGRI’s roster would give Indy a boost in several regions, including the Southeast, where Indy is already the leading multi-mountain pass; New England, Indy’s greatest source of business strength; and Colorado and British Columbia, where the pass’ coverage is thinner. Here’s what PGRI’s roster would look like if the Jay sale is approved:
Industry leaders across Vermont shared a sense of relief and optimism when contacted by The Storm for their reaction to the sale.
“I think they are the best next owner,” said former Sugarbush owner Win Smith. “They are experienced, savvy, and I am sure understand and appreciate what makes Jay special. They are inheriting a strong team.”
A sense of relief on behalf of employees was prevalent. “In my opinion the most important stability change will be related to employees,” said Smugglers’ Notch owner Bill Stritzler. “It is very tough if you have to manage employees who are unsure of the future of the business. The new blood and well-regarded ownership will have a positive impact on employee morale and general attitude. Especially true if it is clear Steve Wright will remain the leader.”
Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway echoed those sentiments. “This a great moment for Jay Peak and all its hard-working staff,” he wrote via email. “It’s been a long few years of initial turmoil and uncertainty after the EB-5 scandal broke-out. Then the Covid disruption that held about half of their customer base in Canada from visiting Jay. Steve Wright and his team masterfully guided Jay through those uncertain times, which ended today with the sale to PGR and the end of the court-ordered receivership.”
We will now have plenty of time to discuss whether Jay has entered the world of conglomerate skiing, or if the nimble little PGRI is small enough to count as the indie of ski companies. Hatheway seemed to think it didn’t matter. “While no longer an official ‘independent’ ski area, it appears PGR gives its resorts operational independence,” he wrote. “Which is smart, especially in the case of Jay. It has a wonderful, distinct character based on the mountain’s steep, gladed terrain; what the ‘Jay Cloud’ delivers in snowfall; its remoteness; its passionate hard-core skier base; and its dedicated staff. The certainty is that Jay has been in good hands over the last few years and will remain in good hands over the coming years to keep its legacy going—with new financial backing that hopefully keep Jay, Jay. Yes, it’s now part of a corporation that owns multiple resorts. But, thankfully the bigger guys didn’t get it and PGR seems certain to keep Jay’s deep roots and independent character flourishing.”
I’ll have much more to come on Jay in the coming weeks, but I broke down my thoughts about what Jay could look like under PGRI last month:
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