Hell for an editor: ‘Pretty darn sure’ | VailDaily.com

Hell for an editor: ‘Pretty darn sure’

Don Rogers

Over a year ago, Vail Resorts came one approval short of selling, I was told months later by a source I regard as credible. Major stockholder Ron Baron just said no, and that was that, as this tale went. There were rumors of a possible sale brewing at the time, as there have been every year since I’ve been here. But no press. Nothing to grab onto.Of course we were interested, very much so, every time. Who is talking? What are they saying? Do they know, or just repeating what they heard, maybe adding a deduction or two of their own? Are they willing to be identified? Who might tell us who has first-hand knowledge?It’s a familiar, frustrating dance.If, when, to whom Vail Resorts sells is huge news in this company town of a valley. Second-home sales and maintenance, and the construction industry may haul in the most dollars in this county that’s wealthier than some Third World countries. But the root of all this lies in our ski mountains, Vail and Beaver Creek. By contrast, Kobe Bryant’s rape trial is small potatoes, though the case does provide a test of our local law enforcement and judicial system.Both stories test our press, as well. This summer we acknowledged the local buzz about VR putting itself up for sale on unusual stock traffic and price. A week later, The Denver Post hung names of possible suitors on their story. We’ve heard the same and some other names, but have refrained from trotting them out because the sourcing is all second-hand, though lots of folks who heard something from someone have said so without allowing themselves to be identified.Good enough for the Post. Not so for us. We still remember the early pursuit of Kobe Bryant stories about this time last year.Last year, our greater care with sourcing allowed us to scoop everyone with regularity without making big mistakes. The rule was simple: We have to know, not merely be pretty darn sure, and the information has to be relevant in real life to the case that would come. Others, including the Post, were fabulously wrong about events, reporting things that just were not true. The stories got wild enough that for a time we even ran pieces debunking some of the tales, including one in the Post about a ruckus in Kobe’s room that was supposedly overheard by other guests. Never happened.We came out ahead last year. But this year, with VR, our rules of engagement seem to be a handicap. You see, I’m pretty sure the Post is right about the names of the potential buyers, even if they have shifted subtlely from story to story. This time their still secondhand information is lining up with ours. They are printing; we haven’t broken through to that all-important primary source or even secondary sources willing to put their names to their information or how they heard. Tellingly, the Rocky Mountain News found even the fact of the soaring traffic and price of VR stock too speculative to report on the possibility of a sale in the works.So what do we know?– Vail Resorts hired Lehman Brothers to court potential buyers, and there have been a handful expressing interest.– Lawyers from a major law firm contacted the regional office of Forest Service in Denver last week for unnamed clients interested in the potential liabilities the ski company has with special use permits needed to operate the resorts. The Forest Service says it receives several such inquiries every year.– Executives of potential suitors have been spotted in town. Some already have homes here, and a couple have worked for Vail Resorts in the past.– VR executives met with other executives in Beaver Creek last week, and have met in other locations in previous weeks.– The stock traffic and price have been unusually high for summer. The price Friday reached a two-year high of $19.51 a share. Trading was at 142,000 shares, compared to an average daily volume of 80,000 shares. Clearly, something is up. The grapevine has buzzed with word the deal would be struck last month, last week, this week, maybe next week. Maybe never. It is a big deal, worth better than a billion dollars, more than the Broncos. I wonder what Ron Baron is thinking. Maybe he could just, you know, call one very frustrated newspaper editor so we can crest “pretty darn sure” and finally know. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com