EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Tenney Mountain CEO Michael Bouchard (Part 1 of 3)
Who is Sir Michael Bouchard and why did he buy a defunct ski area?
Friday, October 30, 2015, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
With Tenney Mountain's planned reopening just over a month away, CEO Sir Michael Bouchard sat down for an in depth NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com interview about his background, the reconstruction process, what the first season will look like, and what the future holds.
Located just outside of Plymouth, New Hampshire, Tenney Mountain ski area first opened in 1960. After repeated struggles in recent decades, the 1,400 vertical foot ski area closed in 2010. Bouchard's Tenney Mountain Development Group acquired the property in November of 2014.
Who is Sir Michael Bouchard?
Sir Michael Bouchard and his wife Kim
Q: You were born in Chelsea and grew up in the North Shore region of Massachusetts. Did you have a local community recreation area that you and your friends could frequent?
No, I don't know of anything that was local.
Q: Have you ever skied?
No. Everybody we meet has learned to ski here and I want to be able to say I learned to ski at Tenney.
Q: While attending North Shore Regional Vocational High School, you started an internship at Eaton Nova.
That's where I started my engineering career, as a draftsperson, working with a couple of great scientists: Peter Rose, who probably is the father of the integrated circuit industry, and David Hopkins. I was lucky because one of the first six people hired there, that grew and grew to thousands of people today.
Q: From Eaton Nova, you went on to work at Wang Laboratories.
I was lucky enough to be hired and work in the microsystems division, which was under the control and command of John Chambers, who is the CEO of Cisco now. I met a great group of people there. Of the gentlemen I met there, Darrell Marroncelli and Ricardo Velez are still with me, and we do a lot of engineering, and hopefully we're going to change the ski industry.
Q: While at Wang Laboratories, you also took some courses at MIT.
I studied mechanical engineering and computer science.
Q: After Wang Laboratories, you went to Spike Technologies.
It was a small startup of three guys. With my partner at the time Scott Pratt, we met with these guys and we realized that they had a great technology and needed some help with the systems stuff, and we kind of became part of their organization, and we grew that to be quite big. It was a hardware antenna manufacturing company for the wireless industry. I saw an opportunity to split off and start a service company called Third Rail. That company merged and became a publically traded company, up until 9-11.
After 9-11, we lost our major investors because they were 99% foreign, which gave us the opportunity to take the company back with all of its assets and turn it into a development company.
We sold it to Datapath. Datapath saw the value of what we were doing. We brought it back to an R&D company and we focused on energy and wireless communications systems and jammers. Datapath saw that there was a huge need for wireless terrestrial communications for robotic platforms and acquired us for that technology and those rights. We stayed there for two or three years, and they gave us an opportunity to buy back the company again, which we did. That's when SecureAxxess was born.
Q: What is SecureAxxess Solutions?
We're working with all advanced technologies. Lighting technology, energy technologies, wireless technology, different types of material processing technologies. A lot stuff is what we learned from the aerospace industry over the years, and we're finding a different home for it, which is pretty neat because the ski industry has a huge need for some advanced technologies. It's a great industry and there's great stuff, but it could be greater.
Q: In May of 2014, you were knighted. How did you become involved in Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem?
I have a friend, who is an investor here as well, his name is Sir Annibale Todesca. He owns the Colosseum Restaurant, and he was a knight, and he watched my work over the years, communications, defense systems for the military or just for the first responders; they're actually related to humanitarian goodness, and that's what the Knights of Malta are all about. You can't just join them; you have to be asked to join, and I was recognized for my humanitarian accomplishments and being a good person, and after three or four years of them doing a due diligence on me, I received the honor of going out to Malta and being knighted by the Prince of Malta as Sir Michael Bouchard, so I am a true Sir Knight of the Order.
The Acquisition of Tenney Mountain
Q: When and how did you first hear about Tenney?
We followed this mountain for 4 years.
About a year after it closed, we were approached by a local urban developer.
When you're in the energy business, it's kind of related to the water and water reclamation industry. We were looking for water sources and a place to put our labs to test water reclamation systems, being able to clean water and so on. We were very focused on the fracking industry at the time and mining industry. This property was very attractive to us because we took a lot at it and it's a very wet mountain. I don't know why all these rumors are that Tenney has no water. It has water everywhere. It's just in the wrong location and that's what we're doing, we're fixing it and bringing it back to the right location.
We looked at it as a group, and we looked at it to try to find corporate investors and make a big go at it, but that just wasn't going to fly at the time, so my wife and I decided to borrow money from a friend as well as a partner, Mast Holdings LLC, and make a go at this, and that's where we are today.
Q: What other properties and ski areas did you consider?
We were looking at other properties in Newington, New Hampshire. There was a huge piece of property out there, about 300 acres. It was the former site of the USA Springs water company. They built a very expensive building, they had wells. That was for a very attractive price as well. However, it didn't have the community feeling that we have here. There's something about the ski mountain that drew everybody in that drew us in and made us feel like a part of it, and I know how important this really is up in this region. Down there, although we're in New Hampshire, it's more Massachusetts-feeling; up here, we can feel that everybody really depends on each business being successful in helping get the community to work, and that's what I like. I know I can make a difference with our technology.
Q: So there are no other ski areas you were looking at the time?
No, this just happened to have the ski area. We're not skiers. The whole team, no one skis.
Q: How much land do you currently own?
Q: You've mentioned that the decision to pursue skiing at Tenney was made when a tire blew out on a Sunday night in snow storm. What was your vision for the property prior to then?
We were up here, we were freezing, it was Sunday night, we were leaving, we cut through the Plymouth Square and we lost a tire on the trailer, and it just happened to be a couple of feet down the street from the fire station. I walked down there to find out what I could do, I mean what's open around here, and they said pull it up, and we pulled it up, the opened up the door, no coats on, brought their air jacks out, jacked up the trailer, swapped the tire out with another tire we had, because I didn't have a jack and so on. They were just so helpful.
The magic is we weren't going to open the ski mountain. We were going to scrap the equipment, use that to offset the purchase and basically pick up the property for nothing. However, we fell in love with the community, the people. We were constantly up here doing samples, testing, we were constantly in town eating, going to different events.
We were still on the fence. The community and the help from those firefighters made the decision for us that night.