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Intrawest, WB part ways

Private equity fund KSL buys Intrawest's remaining stake in Whistler Blackcomb Holdings


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It's the end of an era, but the future is bright for Whistler Blackcomb.

On Monday it was announced that Denver-based KSL Capital Partners had acquired Intrawest's 24 per cent stake in Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. — some 9,092,500 common shares at a market value of $12.75 per share, for a total pricetag just shy of $116 million.

Other than a few changes to the board of the corporation, it's business as usual for Whistler Blackcomb Holdings. The key benefit of the deal is that all senior management and decision making for the resort will now be concentrated entirely in Whistler.

Dave Brownlie, the current president and chief operating officer for Whistler Blackcomb, was promoted to president and chief executive officer and added as a director on the board. He will replace Bill Jensen, the former CEO who was based in Colorado with Intrawest and resigned from Whistler Blackcomb Holdings as a result of the sale of shares.

"I am very excited about the opportunity and I am looking forward to my new role as CEO of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc.," said Brownlie on Tuesday. "As a result of this announcement, our entire management team will now be based here in Whistler.

"This transaction will have no effect on the daily operations of Whistler Blackcomb and our focus will continue to be on creating a world-class product for our guests. KSL has assembled a portfolio of premier travel and leisure assets and their investment in Whistler Blackcomb is a testament to the quality of our business."

The new title doesn't change Brownlie's day-to-day involvement in the resort all that much, as he was always involved in making big-picture decisions for the mountains and has been involved in investor relations as well. He has been with the company for 24 years, starting with Blackcomb Mountain.

Intrawest, which was acquired by Fortress Investment Group in 2006, is no longer invested in the resort it helped to establish, first by acquiring Blackcomb Mountain in 1986 and then by merging with Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation in 1996 to unite the mountains as a single resort — now the largest in North America with a combined 3,307 hectares of skiable terrain.

As well as Jensen, directors Wes Edens and Jonathan Ashley from Fortress Investment Group also resigned from the board.

Eric Resnick, the co-founder and managing director of KSL, and KSL partner Peter McDermott will join the board to fill in for Edens and Ashley. Flora Ferraro, the vice-president of finance for Whistler Blackcomb was also promoted as the interim chief financial officer.

Resnick released this statement after the acquisition of shares:

"KSL is delighted to be acquiring a 24 per cent interest in a world-class ski area," he stated. "Whistler Blackcomb is the largest and most visited ski resort in North America and we feel that it complements our portfolio of premier travel and leisure properties. Peter I are looking forward to working with the board to grow the business. Whistler Blackcomb has a very experienced and successful management team and we are enthusiastic to work with them as they continue to deliver a fantastic mountain experience for Whistler Blackcomb's guests."


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