Thursday, October 27, 2016, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
The Saddleback Mountain Foundation and Trust for Public Land have reached a verbal agreement with the owners of Saddleback to purchase the ski resort and associated land, the Portland Press Herald reports.
According to the Press Herald, the Trust for Public Land would purchase 3,249 acres of land adjacent to the ski area for an undetermined price. Meanwhile, the Saddleback Mountain Foundation would purchase 723 acres containing the ski area for $2.2 million in cash and $3.8 million in financing, plus royalties.
In its first Facebook posting in over 8 months, Saddleback stated, "We continue to work with the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, in addition to the other qualified buyers who are also in the process of pursuing the purchase of the resort."
The Saddleback Mountain Foundation filed paperwork with the Maine Secretary of State on Tuesday, starting the process to eventually become a registered non-profit cooperative. Chairman Peter Stein claims the group received $5 million in pledges, which it hopes will generate $4 million. $1.8 million would be invested in capital improvements. The area closed in 2015 when it failed to raise $3 million to replace its main chairlift.
According to Stein, the Saddleback Mountain Foundation will not jeopardize its long term goals in order to open for the 2016-17 season. It is not known what timetable and fundraising goals are needed to ensure operations this winter.
The latest Saddleback saga started on July 20, 2015, when the Berry family announced they had two weeks to place an order for a replacement for the Rangeley double chairlift, or else it would close the ski area. The family was unable to obtain financing.
Heirs to a large insurance company, Bill and Irene Berry purchased the Rangeley ski area and thousands of acres surrounding it for a reported $8 million in 2003, following an announcement from prior owner Donald Breen that it would close. Two new quad chairlifts were installed in subsequent years in conjunction with a major base lodge expansion. The Oquossoc Cove Marina was added to the fold in 2009.
After obtaining is B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh University in 1955, M.S.T. in biology-geology from Colby College in 1966, and Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Kansas in 1970, Archie "Bill" Berry Jr. joined the faculty of the University of Maine at Farmington. A longtime Saddleback skier, Berry purchased a condo near the ski area in the early 1990s and retired from UMF in 1996. Berry's son Mark worked at Sugarloaf and ran Titcomb Mountain ski area (to which Bill Berry made significant contributions).
In 1971, the U.S. Investment Corporation was founded, which would include Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Company and US Underwriters Insurance Company. On August 8, 2000, Berkshire Hathaway acquired the U.S. Investment Corporation for an estimated $160 million in stock, mainly transferred to the extended Berry family.
On July 28, 2003, Saddleback, Inc. and Saddleback Land & Timber Corp. were incorporated in the State of Maine. Bill Berry, his wife Irene Berry, and their seven children soon took ownership of the 8,000 acre Saddleback tract via their corporations.
Since 2005, Saddleback has entered into multi-million dollar financing agreements with UnitedKinfield Bank, Camden National Bank, Skowhegan Savings Bank (via Finance Authority of Maine), and Coastal Enterprises Inc.
The Berry family placed the ski area on the market in 2012.
In recent years, members of the Berry family have loaned money to both corporations.
In May 2014, the Berrys sold 1,750 acres of land to generate funds.
In December 2015, the Berrys announced a prospective sale had delayed the start of the season and therefore offered season passholders a credit or refund.
In January 2016, Hertz placed a lien on Saddleback for non payment. Associated Design Partners, Inc. followed suit in March 2016.
Various non-skiing functions have been held at the ski area in 2016.