New England What's up with Saddleback - 2019 ?

x10003q

Getting off the lift
Skier
Posts
489
Location
Vermont
I guess we are supposed to believe these people?
A reminder from 6-28-2017:
"At a news conference Wednesday morning at Saddleback, Sebastian Monsour, chief executive officer of the Majella Group, was announced as the buyer of Maine’s third-largest ski area. Also attending the news conference were the resort’s sellers, Bill and Irene Berry, as well as representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation."

"Bill and Irene Berry wished the new owners the best and said they would help in any way they can. Berry said the family had received four or five serious inquiries about the mountain over the past two years, but they believed Majella was best positioned to not only sustain but also expand the mountain’s operations."

“A number of the groups I think had the ability to run it as it was, but it needed more than that,” Berry said. “Majella seemed to have the horsepower necessary to bring it to a higher level.”

We know how Majella worked out.
https://www.centralmaine.com/2017/06/28/australian-developer-buys-saddleback-ski-resort/
 

James

Skiing the powder
Instructor
Posts
8,132
This is making it harder for Saddleback to get to the top 3 resorts in North America on Liftopia's 2020 list.

The fact that Arctaris spends most of its letter blathering about the community is suspicious.
 

Tony S

thread drift a specialty
Skier
Posts
3,185
Location
Maine
The fact that Arctaris spends most of its letter blathering about the community is suspicious.
Well, they know that folks in town have had enough of the dithering.
 

Tony S

thread drift a specialty
Skier
Posts
3,185
Location
Maine
So I'm curious what the Berry's really want at this point..
I have no inside dope or anything, but it certainly appears that what they want is the same thing they've wanted for the better part of a decade, which is to sell cherry-picked portions of the assets for much more than anyone is apparently interested in paying. :huh:
 

Tony S

thread drift a specialty
Skier
Posts
3,185
Location
Maine
"But I paid $800 for these skis just a couple years ago! They have to be worth at least $650!"

Um, no. Especially since I can tell at a glance that "a couple years ago" was actually seven. :rolleyes:
 

EricG

Lost somewhere!
Skier
Posts
776
Location
VT
I have no inside dope or anything, but it certainly appears that what they want is the same thing they've wanted for the better part of a decade, which is to sell cherry-picked portions of the assets for much more than anyone is apparently interested in paying. :huh:
"But I paid $800 for these skis just a couple years ago! They have to be worth at least $650!"

Um, no. Especially since I can tell at a glance that "a couple years ago" was actually seven. :rolleyes:
It’s just unfortunate. That place had some real potential. I’m pretty sure the area could use the revenue from the visitors..
 

x10003q

Getting off the lift
Skier
Posts
489
Location
Vermont
Berrys first put Sadleback up for sale Dec, 2012.
https://bangordailynews.com/2012/12/15/outdoors/saddleback-mountain-ski-resort-up-for-sale/
From the article:
"After 10 years and $40 million worth of upgrades, the Berry family is ready to sell the popular resort. The asking price: $12 million for 400 acres that includes the ski trails and lifts, the base lodge and most of the surrounding 121 condominium units."
"The Berry family will keep 7,600 of the 8,000 acres it bought 10 years ago and hopes to remain involved on some level, according to the Waterville Morning Sentinel."

Here we are 7 years later and they still cannot to sell it.
Delusional.
 

Muleski

Skiing the powder
Industry Insider
Posts
3,982
Location
North of Boston
The Berry family is an interesting one. Bill Berry is about 86-87. His wife, Irene is of similar age. They have been long time residents of Farmington, Maine, where Bill is a retired Geology professor from UMaine, Farmington. The family money comes from an insurance concern that was sold to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway around 2000. For $150 Mil plus. How much of that came to Bill? Seems to be pretty much unknown. But a lot. I would say at least half.

They were long term Saddleback skiers, and their family {They have seven adult children} bought it for $8Mil in 2003. It's reported often that they put another $40Mil plus into it, and never once turned a profit. I have recently read about a high point of 110K skiers, which is news to me. I had heard from a former GM that they never came close to 100K, including many having heavily discounted tickets and free vouchers. It has always been a struggle to operate.

I know, or knew {many have passed away}, WELL, people who were approached to invest in Saddleback from the beginning and elected not to. On multiple occasions. Savvy ski area investors. Nobody has ever disputed what a great mountain it is. The natural mountain. Plenty have had issues with the location, and the fact that ANY research will prove that Maine will only yield so many skiers. Skiers are NOT coming from Quebec. No. At this point, you are looking at how many loyal Saddleback patrons there are, how many people still hang on to condos sinking in value, and then trying to pull people who are skiing elsewhere. In workable numbers.

I have no idea who the complete second generation Berry lineup is. I presume that it is lead by Mark, who has some ski area experience. The family bought the ski area and, to be honest, I lose track of how much acreage. Call it 8000 acres these days. They did sell of a piece of something like 1800 acres to raise some money about 6 years ago.

There have been so many rumors and permutations of exactly what the asking price has been and "for what" in addition to the 500 or so skiable acres, that I find it very confusing. It seems like the family has received some, IMO, terrible advice since they first quietly talked about selling this. A lot of fingers were pointed at the most recent GM, who is quick to point out that he is a lawyer, a real estate broker....and is now out, and is a community banker. A local Farmington guy who I have heard was over his head. He will probably read this and post that he was not, screaming. He reminded me of the "I'm IN CHARGE" type.

When they first pulled the move of threatening to not open unless they were able to fund a replacement of the Rangely chair, many "called bullshit." The family could easily stroke a check for that. But no sane bank was going to put a dime more into this venture. They have invested that $40+ million into it. I think that a modest sale price can cover most of the debt. Even those of us NOT in this business know that a ski area laying idle at some point starts to decay in every respect, and then at some point that decay really accelerates.

IMO, that has happened at Saddleback. The original $13-14Mil base lodge is in need of what seems to be more than just cosmetic work. The Rangely chair is "done". Needs to go. ALL of the lifts need some attention, or to be removed. I was up there poking around two summers ago with a friend who was seriously considering buying it. He and his son, and son in law had a pretty interesting plan. And he has much more money that the Berry family, By a factor of about 20X. However, he does not like to lose money. He is really wired into land conservation, and that world. He talked of options that the sellers had never evidently considered, or at least pursued to a large degree, despite some advice to do so.

For example the USFS would love to acquire the piece of land that Saddleback owns, where the Appalachian Trail passes over it. Land swaps to acquire USFS land for other ski areas in the country have become the norm. My friend suggested that they could have a partner buy that land, and then have the partner swap it for a contiguous piece next to one of the partner's resorts, expanding their footprint. The price would be considerable. Then the Saddleback concern could lease it back for a couple of hundred years. All doable. It would put more cash into the deal. There is only ONE AT, and the USFS likes that kind of land.

When we were up there, we had another friend who is IN the lift business, and a second who is a big player in the snowmaking business, IMO. The lifts are in brutal shape. it appears that they may have started the engines on a few, perhaps on a regular basis, but NOT necessarily run the lift and moved the cable to avoid flat spots on the sheaves and the cable stretching or almost warping out of true. I recall the comment that "this one is toast. Needs a whole new cable and each tower needs may thousands worth of labor an parts...." Plus there is concern about the tower footings, and concrete "rotting" away. The snowmaking.....needs a real hard inspection. Probably many issues.

So now.....it seems like the Berry family is out to lunch on the value of this business. It is only worth what the market will bear. Not one penny more, no matter what they think. The plan to get back in business will be Hurculean, with not realistic prospects to turn a profit. The region really needs it to operate, as they need the jobs, but the State of Maine has a lot of fish to fry and owning a ski area like this is not going to be doable.

I hear people talk of all sorts of silver bullets. The classic "Real Estate Development". I would suggest absolutely no chance. As soon as this thing breathes life, there will be a glut of very underpriced condos {relative to what new construction would have to cost} that owners will be bailing on. Not waiting for another failure and closure down the road. A bigger joke is a hotel to be developed by an outside partner. No.

The talk of this being a legit four season resort. No. It really is not. IMO, that is really wishful thinking. It's not that close to the town of Rangely. It's a tall ask. Plus who knows where the Berrys really are on how much land they will sell. It seems like a moving target. Agree to sell it all, then get cold feet. And then there is the question of the value of the land. It's remote, raw forest for the most part. What's it worth? I would say a LOT less than the would hope.

I hear that when they first decided to sell, they actually hired a Portland Commercial RE Broker, who is a Sugarloaf skier to "list it." That is not the way to sell a ski area, with at that point a price tag starting at $15Mil. But, their advisor had surely never sold one, and they completely {evidently} bypassed the community of investment bankers who put almost all of these deals together. Nope. I had heard that the Berry family felt the fees were too high. And that they didn't want the mountain to "change." Guess what, when you sell a house, you no longer own it. It can be torn down, doubled in size, painted bright purple and you have NO vote. I swear that this family does not get it.

The talk of Alterra or VR as a buyer is a complete joke. Not. A. Chance. Neither would take it on if it were given to them. And the sellers are not into giving it away, as smart as that may be in the end.

Having tried very very hard to reason in business deals with nice people of Bill and Irene Berry's age, it has been a struggle to get them to understand the true value.....what a concern will actually pay. What the terms of the deal will be. I have just been through this with a 92 year old relative who did not realize how run down her property was, and insisted that it was worth as much as a neighbor, who had just put $750K into their home. Insisted that the comparable properties were wrong. I finally had to get power of attorney to make it happen. And lost our two best offers, the first two, in the process. Just saying that this might be a tough one.

This has proven to be a terrible investment for them. Awful. But the value has zip to do with what they have put into it. And you can't change the location, and worse the perception of the location. The PERCEPTION is a killer. Depending on how you drive, what you encounter for traffic or road conditions, it is pretty much the same distance from Portland as Sugarloaf is. Might be 10 minutes less, for some 10 minutes more. However for decades that has never been the perception. I won't get at "Who" skis at Sugarloaf from Portland and Bangor, as well as the coast, and have for generations. It's pretty well established. When we lived in Falmouth, we lived on a short street and of the 12 homes......10 of us owned at Sugarloaf. One at Sunday River. And one in Florida!

This feels like "Death by 1000 cuts", so damn painful to watch. It just drags on and on. Now I hear that the trails need a LOT of cutting. Heavy cutting. It's going to take a lot of money. It sounded like the most recent group had a plan as long as a lot of moving parts fell into place. They didn't. I don't care enough to dig into it.

I first skied there as a kid in the mid 1960's, and from then on a few days a winter, though Sugarloaf was our ski home. About 12-13 years ago, our son was there quite a bit training with an independent PG team, which was racing all over North America and a bit homeless. My wife and I probably skied there 8 days that winter, driving over from Sugarloaf. It was in good shape then. Fun.

The skiing is really great, really fun. Or was. It's one of those places that I love as a customer and can't even imagine as an investor/owner. And I am convinced that the current owners just do not get it. At all. I asked a friend who runs one of he biggest appraisal and valuation companies in the world about it. This guy is a serious skier. His first response was "OH, boy......." The value is what somebody will pay. With some emotion and excitement to take it on. If you get truly objective....it gets ugly. If you close down a ski area, a remote one, what is the utility and value of the base lodge....a fraction of what you think if you built it!

Really just so Sad. I would love to ski there a half dozen days a season. I'd buy us season passes. But not to ski a T-Bar, or to earn my turns. We'll see......
 
Last edited:

James

Skiing the powder
Instructor
Posts
8,132
I skied Saddleback in the early dinosaur age !
Apparently the Berry's are now hoping to find that oil in the land. That's why they're trying to sell it without selling it.

Still hoping to have a New England "Lost Ski Area, will they return?" Gathering at Saddleback. Then our 6 votes on Liftopia should be enough to propel it to their top 3 resorts in North America. After that, hordes of Brits and Irish will descend on the place.
 
Last edited:

ScottB

Out on the slopes
Skier
Posts
556
Location
Boston
From Muleski:
It's going to take a lot of money. It sounded like the most recent group had a plan as long as a lot of moving parts fell into place. They didn't. I don't care enough to dig into it.


I think the moving parts assessment is right on the money and it sounds like that is going to kill the deal. Maybe its not dead yet, but if things under the Berry's control aren't moving, the new buyer is just protecting themselves. I have no insight to share, but I will go ski there again if it ever opens.
 

KevinF

Gathermeister-New England
Team Gathermeister
Posts
1,778
Location
New England
Still hoping to have a New England "Lost Ski Area, will they return?" Gathering at Saddleback. Then our 6 votes on Liftopia should be enough to propel it to their top 3 resorts in North America. After that, hordes of Brits and Irish will descend on the place.
New England Gathering at Saddleback and Ascutney? Bring your touring skis!

According to Google Maps, they're only 4.5 hours apart! :cool:
 

James

Skiing the powder
Instructor
Posts
8,132
New England Gathering at Saddleback and Ascutney? Bring your touring skis!

According to Google Maps, they're only 4.5 hours apart! :cool:
Ascutney will probably have the t bar in by then. Will get you part way up.
 
Last edited:

Tony S

thread drift a specialty
Skier
Posts
3,185
Location
Maine
New England Gathering at Saddleback and Ascutney? Bring your touring skis!

According to Google Maps, they're only 4.5 hours apart! :cool:
I'd be very surprised if you could get there that quickly.
 

Tony S

thread drift a specialty
Skier
Posts
3,185
Location
Maine
I think the moving parts assessment is right on the money
More like the NON-moving parts. ;)

Seriously, though, there are only a lot of moving parts if you aren't psyched about the deal. At least one party is not psyched about the deal, so they're making it complicated (moving parts) as a defensive move.
 

Wilhelmson

Out on the slopes
Skier
Posts
1,580
Nobody is forcing their hand to sell. I'm not well versed in tax and estate strategies of the ultra wealthy. Seems a bottom up analysis would put the infrastructure value at about zilch. Meaning any offer could be well below a family relative break even rate on letting it sit and let time take its course. If a buyer had to put up 50% cash and pay interest they could get a similar return with less risk buying all sorts of things. Maybe they're as rinky dink as suggested but any deal is already a close shave thus paying the big time brokers tips the scale further.

Again, something I don't know much about -doing big business in Maine. The north woods thing went down funky and it was a donation. The moving parts only fall in to place with a guiding hand. This is the wildcard that could put value over run out.

It took a dedicated enthusiast and manager with a lot of vision or something to buy an under performing business and decayed infrastructure in east bum. The rest is history in the making. He bought the parking lots first lol.
 

Erik Timmerman

Making fresh tracks
Instructor
Posts
3,481
New England Gathering at Saddleback and Ascutney? Bring your touring skis!

According to Google Maps, they're only 4.5 hours apart! :cool:
We can do the Balsams in between. I think one of Ascutney's lifts is there now. Or at least, was there.
 

James

Skiing the powder
Instructor
Posts
8,132
Plus Cochran's!
And Bolton Valley! - can rent AT? or tele gear there.
 

Advertisement

Top