Sale of ski resorts won't happen by year's end, trust says

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PORTLAND, MAINE — A real estate investment trust that's selling more than a dozen ski resorts from Maine to California won't meet its deadline of completing the transaction by year's end.

CNL Lifestyle Properties, which is based in Orlando, Florida, has sold its senior housing portfolio, a dozen marinas, four attractions, and the Mount Washington Hotel and Bretton Woods ski area in New Hampshire.

But it continues to seek buyers for 15 additional ski resorts, remaining attractions and marinas, and says it will update shareholders in the first quarter of the new year.

The real estate investment trust "continues to evaluate strategic options for the remainder of its ski and mountain properties as it seeks to provide liquidity to its shareholders," CNL Financial Group senior managing director Steve Rice said in a statement.

REITs are an investment vehicle for a variety of properties including hotels, office buildings and malls. The trust owns the property and makes money from leases and rent.

CNL Lifestyle Properties is trying to sell ski resorts including Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, Loon Mountain and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Okemo Mountain in Vermont, Crested Butte in Colorado, Brighton in Utah and Sierra-at-Tahoe in California.

Skiers won't see a big impact from the sale. Long-term leases will remain in place, so mountain operators will remain unchanged once the property changes owners.

CNL Lifestyle Properties was valued at as much as $3 billion in 2012 with ownership of more than 100 water parks, ski resorts, marinas and senior housing developments. But the value has dropped in the aftermath of a real estate downturn.

The drought in the West hasn't helped. CNL told shareholders that its ski holdings last season were "negatively impacted by adverse conditions," particularly in California, which saw its third straight season of record-breaking drought.

The improving weather out west — which has seen snow this month — may set investors and potential buyers at ease, said Michael Krongel from Mirus Resort Capital in Burlington, Massachusetts, who's been involved in buying, selling and developing ski resorts for 45 years.

But investors don't tend to get overly worried about a short-term trend, said Michael Berry of the National Ski Areas Association. "The industry has a pretty strong financial performance history when looked at over a 10-year period," he said.

If CNL sells the remaining ski resorts as a package, then it would be the largest single ski resort transaction in the history of the sport. But it appears that CNL is willing to entertain breaking them apart, since Bretton Woods was sold separately.


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