Utah-based Pacific Group Resorts poised to buy Jay Peak for $76 million
A ski resort conglomerate based in Utah is in line to buy Jay Peak Resort for $76 million after submitting the highest bid in an auction Wednesday. The sale to Pacific Group Resorts, Inc. (PGRI) is pending approval by a federal judge in Florida.
A hearing on the sale is scheduled for Sept. 16.
PGRI, based in the ski town of Park City, owns five other ski resorts around the U.S. and Canada, including Ragged Mountain Resort in Danbury, New Hampshire. Last year, it purchased two ski areas in Maryland and Virginia.
“If you look at all the assets that Jay includes, it's a really great resort. It’s got a ton of upside and potential,” said PGRI Vice President Christian Knapp in an interview with Vermont Public. “We're excited to keep moving and get the transaction done.”
Jay Peak has been overseen by a court-appointed receiver for the past six years, ever since it was caught up in the largest financial fraud in Vermont’s history.
The Northeast Kingdom resort’s former leaders, owner Ariel Quiros and President Bill Stenger, were accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016 of misappropriating over $200 million. The funds were raised through the federal EB-5 program, which allows foreign investors to apply for green cards in exchange for high-dollar investments in economically-distressed regions of the U.S. Quiros and Stenger reached settlements with the SEC, but both pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the financial scandal and are now serving prison time.
“The exiting of receivership for us signifies the end of a period where we were simply focused on stability,” said Jay Peak President Steve Wright. “We're entering a period now where we can start to have conversations about good, sustainable growth.”
Wright said that growth could include infrastructure upgrades, including improvements to the ski area’s lifts and snowmaking systems. But, he noted, most of the Jay Peak campus is relatively new. That’s thanks in large part to renovations and expansions completed under Stenger and Quiros’ leadership before the EB-5 scandal broke.
“We're entering a period now where we can start to have conversations about good, sustainable growth.”Steve Wright, Jay Peak President
PGRI was one of three bidders for the resort in an auction that lasted about six hours on Wednesday. Knapp and Wright both declined to identify the other bidders, but Wright confirmed that industry giants Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company were not among them.
Vail owns Stowe, Okemo and Mount Snow in Vermont, and Alterra owns Sugarbush and Stratton.
Knapp said PGRI had been considering a bid for Jay Peak for about three years, and had put in an initial bid of $58 million in early August. After other companies also expressed interest, the receiver put the resort up for auction.
While the results of Wednesday’s auction could close a chapter for Jay Peak, the fate of another Northeast Kingdom resort entangled in the EB-5 scandal is uncertain. Burke Mountain, which was formerly owned by Quiros, remains under receivership. Michael Goldberg, the receiver for both resorts, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.