Pacific Group Resorts makes winning, $76 million bid for Jay Peak

The Hotel Jay at Jay Peak Resort on Friday, June 7, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 6:35 p.m.

Pacific Group Resorts Inc. was the highest bidder for Jay Peak Resort during an auction Wednesday, according to a court filing. The Park City, Utah-based company offered $76 million for the Northeast Kingdom ski resort, the filing showed.

The sale still requires approval from Judge Darrin P. Gayles, who has presided over the receivership in federal court in Miami since April 2016. Regulators brought a civil enforcement action that year against the resort’s former owner, Ariel Quiros, and its president, Bill Stenger, in what became the largest investor fraud case in Vermont’s history.

A hearing on the resort’s sale is set for Sept. 16, according to the filing Thursday morning by Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed receiver who has overseen Jay Peak for the past six years.

Proceeds are expected to be distributed to defrauded foreign investors on a “pro rata” basis, according to earlier court filings from Goldberg.

Pacific Group Resorts had made an initial bid of $58 million for the ski resort, according to earlier court filings leading up to the auction. A daylong auction closed to the public took place Wednesday, with “multiple bidders,” Pacific Group said in a press release Thursday. 

Jay Peak would be the sixth resort in Pacific Group’s portfolio, which includes Ragged Mountain in New Hampshire and Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Colorado.

The identities and exact number of other bidders have not been publicly released. Prior to the auction, Steven Wright, Jay Peak’s general manager, said that at least two, and possibly three bidders, were expected to participate. 

The $76 million winning bid is much closer to the resort’s $85 million assessed value, according to the town of Jay’s grand list. The town previously assessed the resort at $121 million in 2020, but agreed to the $85 million figure in a settlement after resort officials challenged the appraisal.

The sale is expected to close prior to the 2022-23 ski and snowboard season, according to the company’s release.

Christian Knapp, Pacific Group’s chief marketing officer, took to Twitter on Thursday morning to comment on the “successful auction” that took place hours earlier. 

“We recognize the staff knows far more about Jay than we do,” Knapp wrote. “Our immediate goal is a well-executed transition inspiring confidence in the staff, while maximizing synergies.”

Vern Greco, Pacific Group’s president and CEO, said in a press release that his company began “pursuing this acquisition over three years ago” and looks forward to bringing “renewed stability” to the resort and its staff.

Greco added that “no major changes are contemplated” to operations at the resort this season. 

“All existing season passes, pass reciprocity, and multi-resort pass arrangements at Jay, including the Indy Pass, will be honored for the 2022-23 winter season,” the company said in a statement.

Quiros, Jay Peak’s former owner, and Stenger, the resort’s past president, as well as an advisor, William Kelly, are all in federal prison.

The civil enforcement actions against Quiros and Stenger brought in 2016 were settled with the two men paying monetary penalties for allegedly misusing $200 million of the more than $350 million they raised for massive upgrades at Jay Peak through the federal EB-5 visa program.

It was a separate project to build a $110 million biomedical research facility in nearby Newport that landed the three men behind bars. That proposed development, known as AnC Bio Vermont, led to their indictments on criminal charges related to investor fraud and eventual plea deals with prosecutors.

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