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Is Talisker losing control of Canyons' real estate?

Published June 28, 2013 11:34 am

Ski industry • Questions surface as new company brought in to oversee development.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After turning Canyons Resort over to Vail to operate, Talisker apparently has lost some control over developing its real estate holdings around the Park City ski area.

That's a concern to Summit County Manager Robert Jasper, who is trying to figure out who is liable for fulfilling pledges to provide amenities, such as a golf course and affordable housing, in exchange for previous county approvals that helped turn Canyons into a major development, Utah's largest ski area geographically.

"To us, what's going on is, they're [Talisker] no longer the master developer, so who do we hold accountable for what's supposed to be done?" Jasper said Thursday, a day after he briefed Summit County Council members on the evolving management situation at Canyons Resort.

The answer is a company called Flera LLC, a subsidiary of one of Talisker's major underwriters, the investment-management firm Vail Resorts Inc. the operator of Canyons for the next 300 years">Värde Partners Inc.

A statement released late Thursday by Flera said "it is business as usual at Canyons, and our goal is to make this transition as seamless and effective as possible for all of our guests, residents, employees and operators."

As Jasper understands the situation, when Canadian-based Talisker Corp. acquired Canyons from a dying American Skiing Co. in July 2008, the ski resort and about 4 million square feet of developable real estate were put under the control of Talisker Canyons Finance Co.

While Talisker Corp. was the major player in the finance company, Jasper said Vail Resorts Inc. the operator of Canyons for the next 300 years">Värde Partners had a pivotal position as a key investor.

Through its subsidiary, Flera, Vail Resorts Inc. the operator of Canyons for the next 300 years">Värde Partners now appears to be calling the shots for Talisker Canyons Finance Co. and has brought in Alvarez & Marsal, which describes itself as "a global professional services firm specializing in turnaround and interim management," to oversee Canyons' development properties until a permanent property manager is selected.

"They call themselves the 'interim manager,' " Jasper said, noting that another Vail Resorts Inc. the operator of Canyons for the next 300 years">Värde Partners subsidiary, Leaseco, oversaw the lease agreement that makes Vail Resorts Inc. the operator of Canyons for the next 300 years, starting at a fee of $25 million annually.

His concern is that, "as part of the approval for The Canyons going way back … we have requirements that they build a golf course, develop a transit plan to work with us to minimize traffic, build affordable housing and a conference center in return for the ability to develop lodging and hotels and all kinds of things."

None have been done, he said, although work has been started on 10 or 11 holes of the promised 18-hole golf course.

"We have a strong interest that that golf course is completed," Jasper added. "We have approvals. We can withdraw them if we believe the conditions [for those approvals] are not met. … We could be going backward. I don't know yet."

The Flera statement provided assurances that the process is moving forward and that it is merely stepping to the forefront after being involved in the resort since 2010 and helping to finance $85 million in improvements.

Calls to Talisker and Alvarez & Marsal were not returned Thursday.

Vail Resorts' spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga said only that "we view this as an internal Talisker matter that does not impact our efforts or arrangements at Canyons."

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

Changing roles

Talisker has controlled four of seven seats on Summit County's Resort Visitors Management Association board, said county manager Robert Jasper, but now it will have two, while the other two will be held by representatives of Alvarez & Marsal.