Proposed Saddleback Purchase Involved in Australian Fraud Case
The Brisbane Times reports $400,000 was spent on Saddleback.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
Details are beginning to emerge regarding the alleged investor fraud case in Australia that resulted in Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour's arrest last month.
According to the Brisbane Times, Monsour allegedly presented a Saddleback master plan to a Chinese investor in January 2017. The investor, Fusheng Li, allegedly gave $5 million to Monsour in an attempt to leverage the Significant Investor Visa program.
Rather than invest the funds as required with the government program, Monsour allegedly diverted the money to other projects, including $400,000 to Saddleback, Maine.
No public statements have been issued this year by the Berry family, who announced the prospective sale to Majella in June 2017. As of July 10, 2018, the Saddleback Maine Facebook page and SaddlebackMaine.com still carry the Majella logo.
The latest saga dates back to July 2015, when the Berry family, owners of Saddleback, announced the Rangeley double was "at end of its useful life" and that operations would cease if the lift could not be replaced. The lift was not replaced and the ski area sat idle for the following two winters.
On September 18, 2017, Majella declared "dominoes have fallen into place" and that "physical work is starting" and that "the first step will be taking down the existing Rangeley lift." As of mid December, the chairs remain on the Rangeley Double. However, chairs were removed from the other lifts and remain on the ground, now buried in snow. Saddleback's lifts have not passed state inspection since November 2014.
Also on September 18, with regard to a 2017-18 reopening, Majella posted, "only thing that is going to hold up or delay this process is Mother Nature" and that Majella was "committed to opening in some capacity for the 2017-18 ski season, assuming Mother Nature does not deliver an early winter with heavy snow."
On November 9, Majella announced delays in the sale, while also adding uncertainty to a 2017-18 reopening by stating it "will not be a full opening, rather a limited operation that, if possible, will allow our Saddlebackers and their families to return and enjoy the mountain in some capacity."
On November 21, NBC Portland reported it had "learned exclusively that the money isn’t there," adding "if the group doesn't come up with the money soon, the deal could fall apart entirely."
In March 2018, NBC Portland released leaked audio in which Monsour stated "I have a very very very small amount of funds" and that "opening the mountain at Saddleback for the Saddleback Resort is not a primary concern for us."
In May 2018, tapes leaked indicating Monsour was seeking to operate "private entertainment spaces" from Australia to the United States with special arrangements "so we don’t have to get the bloody brothel licence."
Saddleback did not operate during the winter of 2017-18.