Last updated: 05:39 PM ET, Mon August 08 2016

Vail Resorts Acquiring Whistler Blackcomb

Destination & Tourism | Monica Poling | August 08, 2016

Vail Resorts Acquiring Whistler Blackcomb

Photo courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb Facebook page

Vail Resorts, which has been enthusiastically acquiring some of America’s top ski resorts, is now establishing a toehold north of the border. Today, Vail Resorts, Inc. and Whistler Blackcomb Holdings, Inc. have announced that they have entered into a “strategic business combination,” joining Whistler Blackcomb with Vail Resorts.

In other words, Vail Resorts will acquire 100 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb’s stock.

"Combining Whistler Blackcomb with Vail Resorts' portfolio of outstanding resorts provides Whistler Blackcomb with increased financial strength, marketing exposure, guest relationships and broadens the geographic diversity of our company with resorts across the United States, as well as in Australia and Canada," said Dave Brownlie, Whistler Blackcomb's chief executive officer. “This relationship will bring greater resources to support our current operations and our ambitious growth plans, including the Renaissance project, the most exciting and transformative investment in Whistler Blackcomb's history.”

The acquisition will not affect season pass holders for the 2016-2017 season, which Whistler Blackcomb has said it plans to honor. For next year, Vail Resorts plans to integrate Whistler Blackcomb into its Epic Season Pass and its other season pass products.

For the most part, Vail Resorts has promised that day-to-day operations for the resort will remain at the resort. Additionally, Vail Resorts plans to retain most of the Whistler Blackcomb employees. 

"Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world with an incredible history, passionate employees and a strong community," said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “With our combined experience and expertise, together we will build upon the guest experience at Whistler Blackcomb while preserving the unique brand and character of the resort as an iconic Canadian destination for guests around the world. We are delighted to add such a renowned resort to Vail Resorts and look forward to expanding our relationships in the Sea-to-Sky community, British Columbia and Canada.

As part of the agreement, Whistler Blackcomb will nominate one member of its board to the Vail Resorts board of directors. Meanwhile, Dave Brownlie will continue to serve as the resort's chief operating officer. He will also become a member of the senior leadership team of Vail Resorts' mountain division.

Additionally, Vail plans to continue efforts to negotiate the renewal of Whistler Blackcomb's Master Development Agreements with significant long-term benefits to the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, the Province of British Columbia and the Resort Municipality of Whistler. Whistler Blackcomb is located in the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations' traditional territories 

“We will also continue our discussions with the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, on whose traditional lands we operate, regarding a business partnership that will benefit our communities, our province and our company for decades to come,” said Brownlie. “Our board of directors has also been monitoring the unique challenges facing the broader ski industry due to the unpredictability of year-to-year regional weather patterns. Whistler Blackcomb, with its unprecedented acreage of high alpine terrain and Glacier bowls, is well positioned, but by no means immune to these challenges. Partnering with the geographically diversified Vail Resorts and extending its successful Epic Pass products to Whistler Blackcomb are customer-focused ways of securing the long-term future of our resort, our industry and our community."

Vail Resorts also plans to invest in Whistler Blackcomb's infrastructure and growth, including building upon the recently announced Renaissance project, which includes a four-season, weather-independent line-up of activities and events, such as mountain biking and sightseeing experiences.

"We look forward to working with Dave and the entire Whistler Blackcomb team as we support their efforts to continue the great progress that has made Whistler Blackcomb the world-renowned resort it is today,” said Katz. “We are excited about what this transaction means for guests and look forward to providing access to the resort for our season pass holders around the world."

The cash value of the offer is estimated to be C$ 676 million (USD$ 513 million) which Vail Resorts intends to finance through an expansion of its existing credit facility. Whistler Blackcomb shareholders will receive C$ 17.50 per share in cash and 0.0975 shares of Vail Resorts common stock, for a total value of C$ 36.00 per share. Upon closing of the transaction, Whistler Blackcomb shareholders will collectively own approximately 10 percent of Vail Resorts outstanding common stock.The transaction is expected to close in fall 2016. 

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