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Fortress rumoured to be taking WB public

Duel track process to sell assets could include sale to a corporate buyer and initial public offering



Widely circulated yet unconfirmed reports indicating an imminent initial public offering (IPO) of Whistler Blackcomb by parent company Fortress Investment Group LLC are making rounds of the international business media.

According to unidentified sources in a Globe and Mail article published Tuesday, Oct. 5, the New York-based investment firm has hired bankers to consider available financial options for Whistler Blackcomb, including an outright sale to a corporate buyer and branching into the IPO market.

Citing the Globe and Mail as the source, CBC and reported that the American private-equity fund is considering the option after several failed attempts to secure a buyer for Intrawest or Whistler Blackcomb.

"The Globe and Mail article that ran today was based on speculation and as such Whistler Blackcomb is unable to comment on speculation," said an Intrawest spokesperson.

Fortress took on massive debt to buy Intrawest, Whistler Blackcomb's parent company, in a $2.8-billion leveraged buyout near the height of the real estate bubble in 2006. Intrawest was negatively affected by the subsequent drop in vacation home sales and has become one of Fortress's poorest performing investments.

To reduce its debt Intrawest lightened its asset pool by selling Copper Mountain, Panorama Mountain Resort, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Village at Squaw Valley and its interest in the French ski resort of Les Arcs.

It is likely that Fortress is trying to capitalize on the international spotlight provided by the 2010 Winter Olympics to help generate interest in Whistler Blackcomb.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey revealed that the value of initial public offerings (IPO) in Canada in 2010 has crested above $4 billion Cdn but that the market has yet to show signs of a solid recovery. A total of 10 new issues on all Canadian exchanges in the third quarter of 2010 contributed $1.41 billion Cdn to a total value of $4.3 billion Cdn dollars raised so far this year.



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