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Business as usual at Battle Mountain

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

MINTURN ” Work continues on the Ginn Company’s project at Battle Mountain even while other parts of the company’s holdings have run into financial or legal trouble. That, experts say, is business as usual.

“Most real estate financing is done in a compartmentalized way,” said Dr. Glenn Mueller, a professor at the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. “All the guarantees and assurances are in place separately.”

That’s the case with the company’s proposed private ski area at Minturn.

“Every project we have is individually financed and is its own legal entity,” Ginn Company spokesman Ryan Julison said. “What happens to one property has no bearing on the others.

One of Ginn’s projects, Laurelmor in North Carolina, has run into financial trouble. The company has said slow sales of home sites there caused it to miss an interest and principal payment on a $675 million loan. The company is now negotiating with the lender to restructure the financing.

Although foreclosure is possible on that project, Toby Tobin doesn’t think it will happen. Tobin, a Florida real estate broker and creator of gotoby.com, a Web site dedicated to Florida real estate, said it’s in banks’ best interests to work with big customers like Ginn.

“They don’t want those loans on their books now,” Tobin said. “Banks will typically extend deadlines or restructure notes.”

But while Tobin doesn’t think Ginn’s other problems will affect the Minturn project financially, he said they could affect it in other ways.

“If they’re having financial difficulties, it’s a distraction of management effort from other communities,” Tobin said.

Julison said that isn’t happening.

“We have vast resources, both in capital and in legal talent,” Julison said. “Bill Weber (Ginn’s local project manager) is focused only on Minturn. The other distractions are separate from Minturn.”

And Gary Suiter, Minturn’s interim town manager, said the town and the company are continuing work on the next, and final step of the private ski area’s town approval process.

“We’re still having meetings and sending e-mails,” Suiter said, adding that he expects the public hearings about the final approval step to start some time around Thanksgiving.

Depending on how many changes there are between the plan the town approved in an annexation agreement with Ginn earlier this year ” and which town voters ratified in a special election in May ” Suiter said it could be anywhere from a few months to several months before the town council is ready to give the project its final approval.

Besides the town approval, Ginn is also waiting for a couple of important rulings from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Suiter said one such ruling, about whether or not the company could build in the Bolts Lake area, would require significant changes to the agreement between Ginn and town, which would further delay the start of work.

Realistically, work on the property won’t start until spring of 2009 at the earliest. And that might not be such a bad thing, given the state of the national economy.

“It could be that when (Ginn) is ready and permitted at Minturn, the market will be

lusting for his product again,” Tobin said.

Meanwhile, Julison said the local team is working as quickly as it can.

“There’s so much work to go into this project that every second counts,” he said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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