prospective buyer emerges for Snow King

By Jim Stanford on February 1, 2012

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Snow King Resort has built less than half of the development permitted on its property. The master plan allows for another 500,000 square feet.

A group of investors with local ties — and a possible connection to the San Diego Padres — is negotiating to purchase Snow King Resort.

The prospective buyer has signed a letter of intent with the resort, but the agreement is nonbinding, said Manuel Lopez, Snow King managing partner.

“It’s something to start talking, kind of,” Lopez said. “We don’t know if anything will come of it.”

Sources with knowledge of Snow King’s business dealings say the resort is seeking up to $40 million for the hotel and adjacent conference, lodging and recreation facilities.

Lopez said the agreement does bind the parties to confidentiality. He would not say who the investors are but conceded several have homes in Jackson Hole.

“It’s an interested party. There’s still a lot of questions,” he said. “It’s a very tentative thing, nothing firm.”

The ski area is included in the latest round of sale talks.

The scope of the deal is said to include all of the 465-acre resort, including the ski area. Snow King previously signed a letter of intent with a prospective buyer, but that failed negotiation only concerned the 200-room hotel and other associated lodging properties.

The resort had been looking to rid itself of the ski area, Wyoming’s oldest, which Lopez has said costs Snow King between $500,000 and $800,000 per year to operate. A community nonprofit, Friends of Snow King, spent six months trying to work out a deal to buy the lifts and protect public access with easements, but the resort pulled out of negotiations.

The new investment group is said to be interested in the development potential of the property at the base of the hill. Below the hotel, for instance, the resort owns two lots totaling more than 10 acres, stretching as far west as Willow Street. The land holds an old cabin and is used as a storage area.

A source with knowledge of the investors said, “By all indications, they are a quality outfit.”

Lopez said there isn’t a timetable to reach a deal. “There are some deadlines, but they could move,” he said. “A letter of intent is an opportunity to start talking, to continue the process.”

Several sources say the prospective buyer has a connection to the San Diego Padres baseball team. One of the team’s part owners, Southern California developer Al Baldwin, owns property in Teton County.

But reached at his office, Baldwin said, “No one’s even talked to me about it.

“I understand baseball, and I do ski,” Baldwin said. “But I don’t think ski resorts make any money.”

Asked if baseball teams make money, he laughed. “Let’s put it this way,” he said, “They’re more fun to own.”

Glenn Doshay coaching a youth team.

A former minority owner of the Padres, Glenn Doshay, also owns property in Teton County. Doshay is president of Palantir Capital, based in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Doshay reportedly owned a 5 percent stake in the Padres. A new ownership group, led by Jeff Moorad and including Baldwin, has been in the process of buying the team from John Moores, but the sale has been held up by Major League Baseball.

While Moores and Doshay owned the club, Moores’ JMI Services developed the downtown area around Petco Park, the Padres’ new stadium built with some $300 million in public financing. JMI Realty, a subsidiary, served as master developer for the 26-block Ballpark District, building several major hotels, large residential projects and nearly 4 million square feet of mixed-use, retail and office space.

In January 2006, JMI Sports, another subsidiary, was formed to offer a “comprehensive approach to planning, development and investment opportunities in and around major sports, entertainment and other public assembly venues,” according to the company’s website.

Two sources with knowledge of Snow King negotiations confirmed that JMI is involved. The company is prepared to invest significantly to revitalize the entire resort, a source said. Doshay could not be reached for comment.

(Resort photos via Snow King; Doshay via SDJW)

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Posted under Economy, Politics, Ski Resorts, Sports, Town Government

18 Comments so far

  1. GCA February 1, 2012 2:48 pm

    Jim Stanford: scoopster.

  2. Woolly February 1, 2012 6:52 pm

    Yeah great scoop, haven’t heard this before. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens with this. Long live the King!

  3. HereWEGO February 2, 2012 6:53 am

    Baldwin said. “But I don’t think ski resorts make any money.”

    Lets hope the town doesn’t get involved if this deal fails because Baldwin is correct.

    The Town Hill is a money-losing proposition.

    This is a real estate play by investors.

    Maybe Jerry Buss will step up to the plate. That would make 2 Kemmerer natives owners of the 2 JH resorts.

  4. bzig February 2, 2012 3:20 pm

    Great reporting, Jim!

  5. Fresh Tracks February 2, 2012 3:44 pm

    Someone smells $$$ in developing all that land at the base of the hill. Wonder what they’ll do with Grandview Lodge?

    If a deal does goes through, the parking lot and softball field at the base of the lifts are going to disappear. They’re going to jam as much density as they possibly can into whatever open property is available.

  6. Teton County GIS February 2, 2012 9:08 pm

    Fresh Tracks:

    The Town owns the parks. The Town also owns a large parcel running west from the Cache Street Section Line across the Town Hill. The NW corner is by the lower tunnel entrance. They also own the SK Center. The cemetery land is not a part of SK and, of course, nor is the Forest Service land.

    If you follow the link, it will take you to the County’s GIS which you can use to examine local property records.

  7. Brad February 3, 2012 11:18 am

    Nice scoop, Jim. I am certain, however, that some of the commenters here are correct. This is about money, development and bailing out Manuel. The town hill as we know it is doomed anyway.

  8. Mike February 3, 2012 12:08 pm

    agreed, long live the king! i’m still pissed that the resort jerked friends of snow king around the way they did. here’s to hoping a solution can be found that works for the investors AND the community! utopian? perhas – but a guy can dream…

  9. John February 4, 2012 8:07 am
  10. Marty McFly February 4, 2012 10:27 am

    If this was a real ski town, this community and the Town of Jackson would have come together to take back the town hill from over a decade of neglect. It desperately needs someone to carry on the work of Neil Rafferty and Bill Briggs. People say Lopez is a nice guy, but he ain’t no skier. Whatever happens to this mess, we need to have the community involved in every step.

    I’m going to be a watchdog, that’s why I got a job there being Marty McFly, and I’m not working my rear end off so they can sell us out. They can pay me in dirt and waste my time with some of their procedures, but I pretend I work for the town hill and community, and not for the hotel’s sideshow. Come be a part of the change, those days are ending hopefully…

    I’m confident that even though it’s 1990 on the hill, it can be 2030 there before it’s 2020-in terms of an efficient and profitable infrastructure and energy usage go…The retro/vintage feel of the slopes should last forever, but they need to provide something for the 12 to 30 year olds out there(there are none besides the ski club racers), like real terrain parks and terrain enhancements, and terrain that isn’t a deathtrap of downed trees.

    …Whatever though, I’m sure the future will focus on $$, development, and not the health and well being of our youth and community. The real estate ad mentioned”one of the greatest opportunities for profit in the Rocky Mtns”-which means we should be worried about our dense little town first and the skiing second. Don’t let Snow King become another free agent for the San Diego Padres to bail on. That Baldwin guy and the other homeowners probably prefer Deer Valley anyway, and probably use JH as a tax refuge, let me guess that they claim they live here full time. Sorry for the assumption, but that’s how it is here.
    Damn all of you smartypant fools who think local ski hills are a lost cause… it’s just a laughingstock with 99% untapped potential, just needs a big sweep to start with a clean slate.

    I wish they could move this hill to a town that deserves it. Thank the JHSC for bringing some pride to the hill through these times! And the slednecks…
    Unless they find a ski area philanthropist that’s a perfect match, the ski area needs to secede from this BS whirlpool and be run by the community!

    Don’t expect another reply or essay from me if you decide to retort this with bla bla bla bla. Just support your town’s heritage or shut up and move.

  11. D February 4, 2012 10:48 am

    Yeah because the best way to make a business profitable is to allow government to run it.

  12. Rob Weinstein February 4, 2012 1:49 pm

    I don’t necessarily agree with everything McFly says…but I dig his passion and obvious adoration of the town hill. Long Live the King.

    Also…fuckin’ A. Deathtrap of down trees, indeed.

  13. yeehaw February 4, 2012 2:17 pm

    Could someone work on re-angulating the snow king ski hill so that it gets more sun? Also, more snow too.

    Hey, unless you got the scrilla to purchase the place, blathering on about it ain’t gunna do much good.

  14. Think BIG February 4, 2012 9:55 pm

    Proves there’s a sucker born everyday. Lopez can’t get his head above water but the marketing sales material talks it up like a gold mine.

    Anybody know what kind of money the Town got for leasing its parcels to SK? How about the Forest Service?

    Parcels Shown in PDF: https://my.rcm1.com/View/1b7db23f8e804464a059eeafbe876aa6/Master%20Land%20Ownership%20Summary%20Maps.pdf

  15. js February 5, 2012 1:01 pm

    From what I’ve heard, the prospective investors with local ties realize what a community asset Snow King is, and they want that to continue. It’s too soon to tell what their intentions are for the base, but they may view the recreational amenities as making the real estate more valuable.
    Which is why it’s such a farce that the town refused to link development rights in negotiations over the ski area. Friends of Snow King could have had a much stronger hand. The only reason Snow King was granted nearly a million square feet of development was because it was running ski lifts, etc. for the public benefit.
    And what a staggering number to approve to begin with. That’s the real gift.

  16. Dixon February 5, 2012 2:00 pm

    Hats off to any local investor willing to subsidize the hill through operations elsewhere. The hill has always been an advertising vehicle for the real estate.

  17. Sake February 5, 2012 3:15 pm

    Those of us who remember when Buttermilk Mountain was dismissed as the ugly stepchild around Aspen know that there’s always hope for a newer version of Snow King.

    “Buttermilk built its 50-year legacy on wide-open and gently rolling trails that cater to beginners and families.

    Today it’s famous for hosting the ESPN Winter X Games through 2012 and being voted #1 by Transworld Snowboarding Magazine Reader’s Poll for best park.

    The 22-foot superpipe in the legendary terrain park does not disappoint, as many X Games winners, Olympians and up-and-comers can attest.”

  18. Sake February 5, 2012 3:47 pm

    I think Snow King got the development rights because of the revenue opportunities for the town. If it got the rights because the resort was subsidizing ski lifts, then our town administrators were negligent. It’s sort of like Obama’s Solyndra play.

    There is no Town Hill without access to the land owned by the Town of Jackson. The Town isn’t going to develop the land above the tunnel and the best way to maximize their investment is by supporting investors in the Town Hill by low lease rates, or free use. It’s no skin off their back unlike the development rights and tax breaks. Is that how it works now?

    Investors in real estate will be looking to minimize their investment in the ski area since no worthwhile return on that investment has ever been demonstrated. The Town needs to focus on making it less costly to maintain as a ski hill.

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