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Intrawest sells Panorama to Kootenay consortium



Intrawest has sold Panorama Resort to a consortium of Kootenay homeowners and businesspeople.

The sale, announced in a Jan. 28 release, includes all of the resort's mountain and Nordic ski operations as well as a 50 per cent stake in Greywolf Golf Course, which is located in alpine terrain at Panorama. It's been recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top 100 Courses in the World Outside the United States.

Rick Jensen, founder of Cranbrook-based company New Dawn Developments, is leading the investors under the moniker Panorama Mountain Village Inc. Formerly a three-term mayor of Cranbrook, Jensen's company built 54 recreation residences at Panorama starting in 2001.

New Dawn Developments, which is now co-owned by Jensen's son Chad, has built projects in other resorts such as Kimberley and Fernie and has built over 600 homes in towns such as Sparwood, Castlegar and Golden.

Jensen, the biggest stakeholder among the new owners, said in an interview that all but three of the investors have homes in Panorama, which is just outside of Invermere. All felt they could make a big impact if Intrawest were prepared to sell.

"We started talking to them in October about buying the resort," he said Jan. 28. "(We) finalized pricing in December and then all the fine details got signed up yesterday. We love the mountain and we plan to make it the best family-oriented mountain resort in Canada."

Jensen went on to say that 18 investors have contributed a "solid chunk" of equity to buy the resort but he wouldn't elaborate when asked how much they paid. CBC quoted an unnamed source that said the group bought the resort for $27 million but Jensen said that was inaccurate.

"It works for us and it certainly works for Intrawest," he said. "We're focused on the long term growth aspects. It's about half built out right now, so it has the opportunity to really double in size over the next 10 or 15 years."

Jensen also wouldn't say how much equity each investor has contributed to the purchase but said it "varies with the size of their investment."

Panorama Mountain Village Inc. wasn't the first company to pursue the resort. Other potential purchasers included the Scurfield family of Calgary, which owns Banff's Sunshine Village resort. Jensen said the Scurfields put in an offer on Panorama two years ago when it was up for sale and that they may work with the new owners on some joint programs.

He said Intrawest is selling off some of its smaller assets because it wants to concentrate on the bigger resorts.

The news release announcing the sale states that business is continuing as usual at Panorama. All of Intrawest's commercial operations and units in Panorama Village, as well as land available for real estate development have been transferred to the new owners.

Intrawest's creditors announced last week their equity in the company would go up for auction on Feb. 19 after they could not come to agreement on refinancing with parent company Fortress Investment Group. Panorama is the second ski resort sold by Intrawest in the last few months. Copper Mountain was sold to Utah-based Powdr Corp. last fall.

Intrawest owns eight other ski resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb, as well as heli-skiing operator CMH and some warm-weather resorts.

The Feb. 19 auction could be averted if Intrawest files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which would allow for a reorganization of the company.

Eric Whittle, a spokesman for Panorama, said the resort could be handed over to its new owners as early as February but he could not confirm whether it would happen before the auction date.