Whistler Blackcomb (WB) will soon be owned by Vail Resorts. In an announcement Monday, Aug. 8, WB CEO Dave Brownlie said the resorts have entered into a “strategic business combination joining Whistler Blackcomb with Vail Resorts” in a deal worth about $1.4 billion.
According to ski industry consultant Roger McCarthy, who has served on the executive committees for both Vail Resorts and Whistler Blackcomb, the deal leverages Vail's significant international reach — particularly in the U.S.
"What this transaction does is bring the focus south of the border through connections in the U.S. that would be difficult to replicate if Whistler Blackcomb was to do it on its own," he said. Vail Resorts has around 550,000 season pass holders worldwide — up from 40,000 less than a decade ago — thanks to an aggressive pass pricing structure intended to bring new skiers into the fold.
Under terms of the agreement, Vail Resorts would acquire 100 per cent of the stock of WB. The announcement also details that WB shareholders would receive CDN$17.50 per share in cash.
Once completed, the deal would include “principally local leadership,” and Vail Resorts also intends to retain the vast majority of Whistler Blackcomb employees, while only impacting a few select areas where there may be duplication in corporate functions.” The deal is expected to be concluded this fall.
Much of the chatter online among local residents has centred around the potential strain the deal — and the anticipated bump in destination visitors — will have on Whistler's already stressed infrastructure, housing stock and workforce.
But at Whistler's current capacity, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is confident the resort is equipped to handle the influx.
"This resort is built to be a destination resort. We’re hovering around 60-per-cent occupancy levels and we’re certainly built to handle more," she said.
Other notes from the press release include details that:
* Vail Resorts plans to invest in WB infrastructure and growth plans, including the recently announced Renaissance project.
• WB intends to honour season pass products, and WB will be integrated into Vail Resorts’ Epic Season Pass program
• The transaction has been unanimously approved by both WB’s and Vail Resorts’ boards of directors
• WB will continue its community involvement through the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, and its involvement in environmental and sustainability commitments
• Vail Resorts will continue the ongoing efforts to “negotiate the renewal of WB’s Master Development Agreements with significant long-term benefits to the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations,” the province and local governments
* Brownlie will continue leading Whistler Blackcomb as the resort’s chief operating officer and will become a member of the senior leadership team of Vail Resorts’ mountain division.
Check back for updates.
With files from Brandon Barrett