Whistler reportedly wins one-week auction reprieve

Whistler reportedly wins one-week auction reprieve

Published Feb. 19, 2010 11:05 p.m. ET

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.