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A Mammoth opportunity

Staff Reports

Dave McCoy is a legend. The octogenarian founded California’s Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in 1937 when he lashed a rope to the axle of a Model A Ford and charged skiers four bits to ride the MacGyvered towrope. People thought he was crazy (and he may have been) but over the next 68 years McCoy turned his little mountain in California’s biggest ski resort.In February, the legend announced he was passing the torch not to another earthly, industry-man, but to the highest bidder. McCoy is selling his mountain.The price?Around $200 million for McCoy’s interest in the mountain.The buyer?That’s up for debate.Across the press, in the Rocky Mountain News, Los Angeles Times and Vail Daily, potential buyers ranging from Robert Redford to the Walt Disney Company to Vail Resorts have been mentioned. Is there any truth to any of theses rumors? Perhaps not, but maybe so.Vail Resorts was first mentioned as a possible bidder in a Los Angeles Times story, but no one at the company will talk about whether or not it’s interested in adding Mammoth to its portfolio. However in December, Vail CEO Adam Aron told the Rocky Mountain News that “If the right ski resort came along at the right price, we would cheerfully add another one We’re a willing buyer. We need to find a willing seller who is reasonable in their price expectation.”Vail Resorts already owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone here in Colorado, and in 2002 it acquired its first out-of-state resort; Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly. What this means is that Vail’s got the money and manpower required for a takeover job, the wild card is Intrawest.As the only ski resort company in North America bigger than Vail Resorts, it has already invested millions in Mammoth’s ski village.Vancouver, British Columbia-based Intrawest, which owns Copper Mountain and operates Winter Park, already has a significant interest in Mammoth. Intrawest is the largest ski resort company in North America with controlling interests or partnership with 14 mountains. Over the past decade, Intrawest has been investing in infrastructure at Mammoth including $1 billion worth of improvements in the mountain’s base village and is in the process of building a $140 million Westin Hotel in Mammoth Lakes.All this has led some analysts to speculate Intrawest won’t part with the mountain.Ski industry analyst Will Marks of the San Francisco-based JMP Securities has already publicly speculated that Vail and Intrawest are the only ski resort companies big enough to buy Mammoth, but that Intrawest has put too much into the hill to give it up now. VT By Jed Gottlieb


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