Potential buyers size up Hermitage Club

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WILMINGTON — As the United States bankruptcy court provides a trustee assigned to the Hermitage Club case more time for reviewing agreements still in place, potential buyers also want to learn more.

"As is always the case in these situations, a number of investors are looking at the project trying to get 'their arms around' the project," Alan Tantleff, the state court-appointed receiver tasked with preserving properties that fall under a foreclosure complaint filed by Berkshire Bank, including the ski resort at Haystack Mountain, told the Reformer in an email Saturday night. "I've spoken to a number of qualified, reputable, prospective investors in recent weeks."

On Wednesday, Wilmington Town Manager Scott Tucker told the Reformer the bank's attorney had been talking with the town's attorney.

"There's always a few groups that are interested in the property, but I've not actually seen anything developed yet," he said.

On Thursday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Colleen A. Brown approved an order that gives more time for the Chapter 7 trustee appointed by the court to assume or reject all unexpired leases of Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC and Hermitage Club LLC. The two Hermitage entities are involved in bankruptcy hearings and their assets are anticipated to be sold.

Brown said the trustee showed sufficient cause to extend the deadline and there had been no objections to the motion.

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In a filing last week, Chapter 7 Trustee Raymond J. Obuchowski drew attention to the approximately 252 acres of Haystack Mountain that the Hermitage leased from the town of Wilmington for its private ski resort plus nine other unexpired leases or contracts still in force.

"This lease is or may be integral to the ski area, and potentially the marketing and eventual sale of the premises," he wrote in regard to the lease with the town. "The possible rejection of the lease by the Estate may result in irreparable damage to the Estate and the ability to realize any value through the sale of the ski area in an entirety, however, this lease and potentially others by the failure to be properly scheduled have taxed the Trustee's ability to assess and review such contracts within the time periods provided by the Bankruptcy Code."

Obuchoswki wrote that the depth of the Hermitage's "financial affairs" and their affiliates prevented him from having enough time to complete a review of all possible agreements still in existence. Brown approved his request to extend the period for filing claims related to leases and contracts from Nov. 1 to Nov. 27.

While Obuchowski had initially been expected by the court to take over responsibilities handled by Tantleff, the bank and Obuchowski put out a report last month saying that Tantleff would stay on as he "is familiar with the properties and has the processes in place to maintain the properties in their mothball state."

"The properties are complicated, vast for the area, and spread out throughout Wilmington and Dover, V.T.," the report says.

Meanwhile, due to his lack of appearing Wednesday in a state court in Connecticut, law enforcement has been asked to take Hermitage founder Jim Barnes into custody and bring him to court. He was not to be incarcerated overnight but would need to pay a $2,500 fine after missing a hearing related to Reinhart Foodservice LLC, which was awarded more than $1.5 million in damages in the court in May.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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