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Whistler Blackcomb Agrees To $1.1 Billion Takeover Offer From Vail Resorts

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
File photo. Whistler Blackcomb hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and is a popular getaway for Northwest U.S. skiers.

A popular getaway destination for Northwest outdoor enthusiasts should be under new ownership by this winter. British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb ski resort has agreed to a friendly takeover by Colorado-based Vail Resorts.

Vail Resorts’ unsolicited takeover bid worth $1.1 billion was a "very compelling" offer according to Whistler Blackcomb CEO Dave Brownlie. He told industry analysts on a conference call that Vail Resorts would bring marketing muscle. The buyer’s financial resources would also “accelerate” Whistler’s plans to become -- in Brownlie’s words -- “weather independent.”

"The weather challenges that we have -- over the long term, I mean weather continues to become probably more volatile on a regional basis,” Brownlie said.

Earlier this year, Whistler Blackcomb announced what it calls its "Renaissance" project. This involves hundreds of millions of dollars in construction to add non-skiing activities (including an indoor water park), new chairlifts and snowmaking to insulate against bad snow years along with a redevelopment of the Blackcomb base area.

Brownlie said he does not expect the corporate takeover to cause "significant changes" to the brand or to the Northwest character of Whistler. Local management of North America’s most visited ski area is expected to stay in place.

Whistler Blackcomb is less than two hours' drive north of Vancouver and about five hours from Seattle. The resort co-hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics with Vancouver.

Brownlie said Vail Resorts' offer is a combination of cash and stock. It represented a 43 percent premium based on Whistler Blackcomb's closing price on Friday.

"We felt it was very good for our shareholders and for our company overall," Brownlie said on the hastily-arranged call with analysts Monday morning. "We expect the transaction to close this coming fall."

Brownlie said another factor that made Vail Resorts an attractive partner was its ability to market the British Columbia resort to the customers of all of its other properties. Vail Resorts owns a global network of mountain resorts and has been acquisitive recently.

In a presentation for its own investors Monday, Vail management touted the diversification benefits of acquiring Whistler Blackcomb. Publicly-traded Vail Resorts does not currently own a property in the Pacific Northwest. It also said owning Whistler will give the Colorado-based company more access to Asian customers and extend the reach and appeal of its multi-resort ski passes.

Stock in Whistler Blackcomb Holdings soared in trading on the Toronto exchange Monday. Wall Street appeared to like the deal too as Vail Resorts rose sharply in New York trading.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.