Whistler reportedly wins one-week auction reprieve

An auction that would sell off the resort hosting Olympic Alpine

events in the middle of the games has reportedly been postponed by

a week – until two days before the closing ceremony.

Whistler-Blackcomb and other assets of resort operator Intrawest

were set to go on the block Friday as creditors seek to recoup

hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to the company’s owner,

New York hedge fund Fortress.

But the creditors, which include defunct investment bank Lehman

Brothers, delayed the auction to Feb. 26 as they try to reach a

last-minute deal with Fortress, The Globe and Mail of Toronto

reported.

Intrawest spokesman Ian Galbraith called reports of the

postponement “speculation” but said “serious discussions with

Intrawest’s lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing.”

Calls to Fortress went unanswered.

Analysts say creditors may be trying to juice as much marketing

glamour out of the games as they can. But Will Marks of JMP

Securities said he believed the prospect of an auction is a

threat.

“I think at some point we’ll see closure on this, and it won’t

be in the form of an auction,” Marks said.

In 2006, Fortress paid $2.8 billion for Intrawest, which

operates several elite resorts in North America, in a highly

leveraged buyout. With property prices sagging, Fortress is now

reportedly behind on a $1.4 billion loan.

Potential buyers of Whistler-Blackcomb include Vail Resorts,

which owns resorts in Vail and Breckenridge, Colo., and private

equity funds, analysts say.

Fortress could avoid an asset sale if it puts Intrawest into

bankruptcy, a strategy that would buy time and allow it to continue

to operate as control shifts to a trustee.

The 2008 collapse of Lehman creates additional pressure because

the company is desperate to recoup as much money as it can as

disentangles its financial commitments.