Private equity firm to buy Squaw Valley ski resort

Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:49am EST

* Deal expected to close by Dec. 1

* Includes more than 100 acres of land adjacent to resort

* KSL plans $50 mln in capital improvements over 3-5 yrs

DETROIT, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Private equity firm KSL Capital Partners has agreed to buy the company that controls the Squaw Valley USA ski resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close by Dec. 1, for almost all the shares of the Squaw Valley Development Co were not disclosed, but KSL said on Tuesday that it plans to spend more than $50 million over the next three to five years on capital improvements at the resort.

"Squaw Valley is the birthplace of the modern mountain resort in the United States," KSL managing director Eric Resnick said in a statement.

Founded in 1949 by Alexander Cushing, whose family make up most of the current shareholders, Squaw Valley is a mountain resort near Lake Tahoe in northern California, offering 4,000 acres and 2,850 vertical feet of skiing and riding spanning six peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The deal also includes real estate holdings of more than 100 acres, some undeveloped, adjacent to resort.

KSL, based in Denver, is focused on the travel and leisure sectors. It has investments in such properties as Western Athletic Clubs luxury resorts and ClubCorp, one of the largest owners of private golf and business clubs, and previously invested in Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa and other locations.

KSL founders Resnick and Michael Shannon have extensive backgrounds in the snowsports industry.

Shannon was president at Vail Associates, the predecessor company to Vail Resorts (MTN.N), while Resnick held a variety of position at Vail. Both also serve on the boards of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Foundation and the Vail Valley Foundation.

Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, who took the job in August, will remain, KSL said. Wirth said the planned capital improvements will focus on beginning and intermediate operations that cater to families and less experienced skiers at the resort, which opened for winter operations on Nov. 20.

Squaw Valley resort also will work to develop programs in conjunction with other KSL properties, Wirth said.

He declined to reveal Squaw Valley's annual revenue, but said the company is profitable. He said Squaw Valley has enjoyed double-digit percentage increases in total skier visits from the 2008-2009 to the 2009-2010 season and season pass sales up more than 15 percent. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, editing by Dave Zimmerman)