If the lease of Canyons Resort to Vail Associates knocked people off their feet, the news this week that Talisker Corporation (Vail’s landlord) is pulling out of Canyons altogether is sending them into the next hemisphere. Flera LLC, a subsidiary of one of Talisker’s major underwriters (the investment-management firm Värde Partners Inc.) has brought in Alvarez & Marsal to sort things out. A&M is one of world’s largest restructuring firms. “This is what they do when companies get into trouble and run,” says Shane Gadbaw, hedge fund entrepreneur and owner of Eagle Point Resort in Beaver, Utah. “It takes serious financial issues for the shareholders to get involved.”
Talisker made a play for The Canyons back in 2007 and closed the deal with now-defunct American Skiing Company by 2008. “After the economic slump and two weak ski seasons, the writing was on the wall,” Gadbaw says. “This is like a bankruptcy except they are not trying to get out of their responsability to bondholders. This is a more amicable.”
Flera issued a statement Thursday saying, “It is business as usual at Canyons, and our goal is to make this transition as seamless and effective as possible for all of our guests, residents, employees and operators.” So, Talisker is out and Flera now owns the development rights to “four million square feet of real estate at the Canyons Resort, construction of the Canyons golf course, and oversight of the Waldorf Astoria Park City Hotel.” The trouble is Summit County is left wondering who’s actually going to live up to the deal they made for those development rights at Canyons. Talisker had committed to building a golf course, a convention center, a transit plan and affordable housing and the County plans to enforce those requirements.
Summit County Manager Bob Jasper told The Park Record that Talisker’s Jack Bistricer personally assured him that “Talisker is solvent and that he still owns 50 percent of the resort. He is just no longer the lead developer.” Possibly. Talisker still owns the Empire Pass development in Deer Valley, the land under Park City Mountain Resort, a restaurant on Main Street and the Tuahaye development between Park City and the town of Kamas.
There’s a strong chance that Flera will soon instigate an orderly liquidation of assets. In which case, yet another developer could come in and finish the county’s requirements. The good news is that because the Vail deal occurred first, the transition is a relative sideshow to the resort operations. “We view this is an internal Talisker matter that does not impact our efforts or arrangements at Canyons,” says Vail representative Kelly Ladyga. Talisker will still be Vail’s beneficiary but the money they receive will go to recover for the bondholders.
You’re not alone in thinking that the goings-on at Canyons Resort is starting to feel like a soap opera. Tune in next time for As The Ski Area Turns.