Inside Vancouver: Whistler up for auction

Eurosport - Mon, 25 Jan 19:38:00 2010

In the latest of a twice-weekly blog in the build-up to the Winter Olympics in Canada, we take you Inside Vancouver.

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My name is Ronald Beaudry and I am a member of the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance. I live in Whistler at Creekside, having bought a condo about 400 metres away from the finish line of the Alpine skiing events at the Olympics. I will be keeping you informed on all the build-up to the Winter Olympics.

As mentioned a couple of blogs ago - see link below picture - Whistler/Blackcomb's owners Intrawest ULC failed to make a loan repayment last week. They had already asked for a month extension which came and went without the payment. So you guessed it. AUCTION.

The creditors of Fortress Investment Group LLC (controlling interest in Intrawest) which includes Davidson Kempner Capital Management, Oak Hill Advisors LP and Alvarez & Marshal apparently have been frustrated lately by a lack of progress in an attempt to restructure the loan. Now for all you financial types; Alvarez & Marshal is the financial firm assigned by the US government to represent the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers who at one time when solvent were one of the lenders. Alvarez & Marshal's sole purpose is to search out every dollar it can find as it tries to settle more than $1 trillion in creditor claims against the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

Reports out of New York suggest that by forcing Intrawest into bankruptcy and eventually onto the auction block, creditors could potentially raise several billion. Something Alvarez wants.

The auction of Intrawest's assets, which include holdings in Canada and the US will take place on February 19 - the same day that the men's super G is scheduled on the Olympic course at Whistler Mountain. My guess is that you probably won't hear any broadcaster mention this during the event. I'm sure the IOC will have a gag order on this one.

Spokespersons from both Whistler/Blackcomb and Vanoc have issued statements, basically re-iterating that business is proceeding as usual and that all final preparations are well on their way.

According to talk around town some suggest that it might be time for locals to put a consortium of investors together and return to the old days when the community owned the resort. Whistler is a rich community but not that rich. I think these thoughts are probably alcohol induced and seem to make sense later into the wee hours.

There's probably only a few investors in the world with the financial ability and willingness to assume the risk. Ski resorts and resort property aren't the most popular investment these days. Case in point Bill Jensen, Intrawest CEO, has been trying for the last half year without much success to find buyers for its holdings. To date only Copper Mountain in Colorado has been sold.

I'm sure that this type of situation is a first for the IOC but probably not the last, given the financial state of our world economy. Up until recent times, each and every host city was immune to world financial woes.

What challenges will London face, and how successful will the next summer games be?

Ronald Beaudry / Eurosport

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