1984 – Bass family bailes out of Vail
As Seth H. Marx wrote in his book, “Mountain Vision: The making of Beaver Creek”:
“The potential for profits at the new resort was grim for the short term, and Harry Bass and the rest of the board of directors began to worry in 1981 about how long the company could afford to wait. They had underestimated how much money and time it would take to get the resort to begin paying for itself, and the Bass plan for Beaver Creek needed immediate adjustments.”
The first adjustment Bass made was to appoint himself chief of real estate sales until May 1982, when he hired Harry Frampton, who had experience with real estate in Hilton Head, S.C., and Virginia. Frampton would say later, as quoted in “Mountain Vision,” “The reason they hired me was that they needed somebody to turn around Beaver Creek real estate or VA was going to go under.”
It was that bad. Everything had stalled, and the major buildings in the village, such as Village Hall and the Poste Montane Lodge – which became known as the “Postpone Montane” – had a variety of troubles.
After Frampton inspected the sites, he reported: “At the Village Hall project, the contractor had walked off the job. The Post Montane … had stopped because of cost overruns, the sheriff’s office had tacked lien waivers all over the building. … Creekside Condominiums had run out of money. … The Charter was about a third complete and had been stopped by the lending bank.”
For the next couple of years, not a lot of real estate moved. Much of it was overpriced, and the economy of the 1980s was not conducive to big real estate projects. Over time, however, Harry Frampton managed to radically improve the company’s real estate operations, and, in fact, all aspects of its operating procedures.
Then in 1984, a new force came to bear: The members of the board of the Goliad trust, which had been set up for the nine Bass children (Harry’s children and their cousins), were worried. The directors decided that the Bass kids’ main financial resources should not be utterly dependent on an investment in something as risky as Beaver Creek. The Goliad directors decided to pull their money out of Vail Associates.
Harry Bass argued that the long-term investment potential of Vail and Beaver Creek was “as good as gold,” but the trustees didn’t agree. They gave him the boot as chairman of Vail Associates and went looking for someone with about $130 million to buy Vail and its debts, as well as its troubled sister resort.
Bass, now deceased, never set foot in Vail again.
Editor’s note: This is the 62nd installment of the Vail Daily’s serialization of “Vail: Triumph of a Dream” by Vail Pioneer and Founder Pete Seibert. This excerpt comes from Chapter 12, entitled “Beaver Creek.” The book can be purchased at the Colorado Ski Museum, as well as bookstores and other retailers throughout the Vail Valley.