By Jim Stanford on February 1, 2012
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 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.”
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.