Mammoth Mountain Sold!
After decades of rumors about the impending sale of Mammoth Mountain, it finally happened.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort and all its holdings, including June Mountain, have been sold – and no, it’s not to Vail Resorts.
The sale, price unknown, was to a Colorado ski and investment partnership that includes, but is not limited to, Aspen Skiing Co. The sale was announced Wednesday, April 12.
The buyers are “a newly formed entity,” according to MMSA, that included Aspen Skiing Company, LLC, and a Denver-based investment company called KSL Partners.
Along with Mammoth Mountain, Aspen and KSL also bought the rest of Mammoth’s holdings; Bear Mountain, June Mountain and Snow Summit.
The sale of Mammoth’s resorts along with the above purchases is widely viewed in the skiing industry as giving Aspen’s competitor Vail Resorts a run for its money – and for its skiers, terrain and pass programs.
Locals have long debated whether Aspen or Vail would end up with Mammoth, even as Mountain bigwigs assured them the Mountain would stay local.
The sale answers that question and puts all of Mammoth’s resorts into an Easter egg basket alongside Winter Park, Steamboat Mountain, Snowshoe Mountain, Stratton Mountain, Mont Tremblant, Blue Mountain, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Snowmass Mountains and Squaw Valley/Alpine.
Longtime Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory knows the sale has, and will continue to, trigger numerous fears and worries by some, as well as celebration by others who see the benefits that a large, well-financed owner can bring to a ski resort company and to the town.
He said one thing that separates Aspen Skiing from Vail is its emphasis on celebrating and encouraging the uniqueness of each resort and the unique culture of each resort, including, now, Mammoth.
“Vail was very successful at taking unique places and creating a common experience for their visitors,” he said. “This company has a very different philosophy from Vail. The belief is that it’s valuable to take the one-of-a-kind qualities that make Mammoth, Mammoth and expand on them, not subsume them.”
If true, this is in sync with a growing trend in the travel and recreation world where travelers and consumers are seeking authentic, on-the-ground experiences, and was one of the reasons he said he and his investment partners were willing to consider selling (Gregory is a part owner of Mammoth Mountain and will continue to be so) to Aspen.
“People today want to go to the Food Cache, not to McDonalds,” he said.
He also said one of the reasons Aspen and KSL were interested in buying in Mammoth was because of the numerous plans the Town of Mammoth, the Mountain and the community already have for future development, including things like revitalizing Main Street, creating a town center, and more.
That said, there is no doubt changes are coming to Mammoth, both to the Mountain and the town.
The biggest change, Gregory said, is likely to be the pace of new investments in the town and Mountain, and thus the pace at which changes arrive.
“You can’t really estimate and verify any of this specifically, but I believe it will probably move twice as fast as it would have, possibly be cut in half,” he said.
Other changes are what Gregory calls a “reduction in volatility” and a “lower risk profile.”
“It’s been feast or famine for Mammoth and the community, largely tied to the changes in the weather,” he said. “But now, with places like Big Bear and other resorts, this gives us a much broader geographic footprint. It’s always a good winter, somewhere. That allows us to smooth out the impacts of weather or other disruptions to individual resorts. When Mammoth was a stand-alone resort, it could only rely on itself. So, now, there is a much larger basket of eggs.”
The benefit to the town and to employees who work and live within such a group of resorts is greater stability, which, he said, will foster an increased investment in the town and region.
Gregory will host an open forum on Monday, April 17 at 5 p.m. at the Mountainside Conference Center in Main Lodge. All are invited to attend.
That’s not to say everything will be rosy for Mammoth.
The risks of corporate ownership are evident in every corner of the country and world, and Mammoth residents who consider Dave McCoy’s iconic individualism and Mammoth’s funkiness a badge of honor have longed feared becoming another “cookie cutter” resort.
But there is hope, if the Town government and its residents are clear with what they want going into a relationship with the new owners, said Mickey Brown, a longtime local, real estate agent, and former town planning commissioner.
“When Starwood bought Mammoth Mountain (in 2005), we as a town were not sure what we wanted. We had not even finished the General Plan. The town rolled over and gave them everything they wanted. But now, we are much more clear on so many things, on how the town should interact with the Mountain, on our mobility interfaces, on what our downtown and The Village need to look like. If we stay clear about this, it will allow us to come to the table with much more equality.”
Matthew Lehman, a longtime real estate agent and former Mammoth Lakes Town Council member, said if he were to give any advice to the Town’s council and residents, it would be this: “If we are proactive, if we reach out to the new owners and let them know we are willing to work with them, if we don’t come at them with a hostile attitude, we can work toward a more streamlined permitting process,” he said.
“That does not mean we roll over and give up everything. I’m not saying that at all. But if we know what we want and we are proactive, that’s 90 percent of it there.”
Here’s more on the sale from a news release from Mammoth Mountain on April 12: " Mammoth Resorts, the owner of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and June Mountain, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by a newly formed entity controlled by affiliates of the Aspen Skiing Company, L.L.C. (“Aspen”) and KSL Capital Partners, LLC (“KSL”).
“A Starwood Capital Group controlled affiliate owns a majority interest in Mammoth Resorts. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter of 2017, and is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.
“Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“KSL and Aspen previously announced plans to acquire Intrawest Resorts Holdings, Inc. through this new entity.
“Mammoth has been Southern California’s mountain home since 1948,” said Rusty Gregory, Chairman and CEO of Mammoth Resorts. “After doubling down on our offerings to Southern California with the purchase of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain in 2014, joining this new venture led by Aspen and KSL is the next logical chapter in the story of Mammoth Resorts. This new platform, built around a collective passion for the mountains and our commitment to the people who visit, work and live there, is exactly what the ski resort business needs.
“I am excited about the future prospects for Mammoth Resorts, our people and this new enterprise.”
“We have taken great pride in our ownership of Mammoth over the last 12 years,” Barry Sternlicht, Chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group said. “We invested in the mountains, our people, and planning for the long term future. Together with Mammoth’s talented management team, we successfully navigated a very tumultuous period. We implemented state-of-the-art marketing programs, installed modern RFID technology to improve traffic flow, and we added significant new lift capacity.
Here is more information on what the sale means, and who is behind it:
• Season Passes: For the full 2017-18 winter season, Mammoth will continue to honor the resort’s existing pass products that are currently on sale, including the Mountain Collective, according to MMSA.
• Aspen Skiing Company: Aspen Skiing Company owns and operates the four mountains of Aspen Snowmass – Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk – as well hospitality properties The Little Nell, Residences at The Little Nell, Limelight Aspen and Limelight Ketchum in Ketchum, Idaho. For more information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.
• KSL Capital Partners: KSL Capital Partners, LLC is a private equity firm specializing in travel and leisure enterprises in five primary sectors: hospitality, recreation, clubs, real estate and travel services. KSL has offices in Denver, Colorado; Stamford, Connecticut; and London.. For more information, visit www.kslcapital.com.
• Starwood Capital Group: Starwood Capital Group is a private alternative investment firm with a core focus on global real estate, energy infrastructure and oil and gas. The firm and its affiliates maintain nine offices in three countries around the world, and currently have more than 2,000 employees. Starwood Capital Group has raised over $37 billion of equity capital since its inception in 1991, and currently manages approximately $52 billion in assets. The firm has invested in virtually every category of real estate on a global basis, opportunistically shifting asset classes, geographies and positions in the capital stack as it perceives risk/reward dynamics to be evolving. Additional information can be found at www.starwoodcapital.com.
• Advisors: Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC is serving as financial advisor to Mammoth Resorts. Goldman, Sachs & Co. is serving as financial advisor to the new entity formed by Aspen and KSL.
• Kirkland & Ellis LLP is serving as legal advisor to Mammoth. Hogan Lovells US LLP, Latham and Watkins LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP are serving as legal advisors to Aspen and KSL.