Friday, July 11, 2014

Bidders still interested in ownership of ski resort

March 08. 2013 12:02AM

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SCRANTON — The ink on a federal bankruptcy judge’s order approving the sale of Snö Mountain to the resort’s largest creditor wasn’t dry before speculation began on who will own the 440-acre property next season.

As skiers and snowboarders spent Wednesday on the slopes and terrain at the financially troubled attraction, Judge Jean FitzSimon accepted DFM Realty Inc.’s $4.6 million mixed cash and credit bid for the skiing and water-park complex on Montage Mountain. DFM Realty, an affiliate of National Penn Bank of Boyertown, Berks County, bid $4.6 million during a four-hour auction held last week in Philadelphia.

That bank previously extended two mortgages to Snö Mountain’s owners totaling more than $8.9 million and is the facility’s largest secured creditor. Because of that, it was permitted to bid up to that $8.9 million. In the end, it didn’t have to go that high, as second highest bidder Montage Mountain Resort LP’s top bid was $4.5 million.

Montage Mountain Resorts LLC, a Philadelphia-area investment group, has owned the property since 2006. It purchased the resort from Lackawanna County for $5.1 million that year and has operated the attraction while losing money ever since. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall.

Even with the history of operating losses, if the auction is an indication, members of that ownership group seem interested in making an effort to purchase the property from the bank. Scott Tattar, a spokesman for the group, did not return a call seeking comment on Thursday.

The third bidder at least week’s auction is still expressing an interest in the resort.

CBH20, a group backed by Arthur Berry III, the owner of Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville, Monroe County, opened with a $1 million bid but never raised it.

Berry said his group would not pay anywhere in the ballpark of $4.5 million. But ownership might not be the only way his group could get involved in Snö Mountain. He threw out the possibility that Camelback could serve as an operator of Snö Mountain if the new owner was interested.

In an email Thursday, Catharine Bower, a spokeswoman for National Penn Bank, declined to comment on what the bank has planned for the property.

Gary F. Seitz, who has served as a court-appointed operator after Snö Mountain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October after piling up $24.2 million in debt, said the closing on the sale is set to occur “no later than April 19. The resort will continue to operate, weather permitting, to the usual season end.”

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