An Australian company announced Wednesday that it has signed an asset purchase agreement to secure ownership of Maine’s third-largest ski resort, which has been closed to skiing for the past two winters.
Majella Group, fronted by its CEO Sebastian Monsour of Brisbane, Australia, announced the deal with Bill and Irene Berry of Farmington, who have owned Saddleback Mountain Resort since 2003.
The deal, which is expected to be finalized later this summer, includes the purchase of all holdings of Saddleback Mountain Resort, the base lodge, ski lifts, and surrounding timberland totalling 6,337 acres, according to a news release.
The Berry family has been seeking to sell the resort for some time. In November of 2016, a group calling itself Saddleback Community Mountain Resort LLC announced plans to raise $4 million to buy the resort and reopen it. That effort was not successful and the resort was not opened. On Wednesday, Saddleback Mountain Foundation, which was working toward that goal, praised the purchase by Majella.
“The Saddleback Mountain Foundation applauds the effort of the future owners of Saddleback Mountain and the Berry family,” the group said in a prepared statement. “We wish them the best for this vibrant mountain and are excited for the lifts to be spinning again.”
Monsour, whose father purchased the Williston West Church in Portland in 2011, said he and his group spent months studying a potential purchase of Saddleback.
“On behalf of my entire team, we look forward to getting to know the Western Maine community and working with the town of Rangeley to revive this magnificent property,” Monsour said in the release.
Monsour said Majella Group has a vision of the property as a premiere four-season resort.
But he was hesitant to guarantee that Saddleback will open this winter.
“Our commitment is not to over promise, but to move expeditiously and communicate transparently,” he said in the release. “We have much work to do. Please know, as soon as our team believes we can deliver a skiing experience that is consistent with our values and meets the needs of our skiing community, we will announce our plans for reopening.”
Monsour said replacing the Rangely chairlift and T-bar are top priorities. Majella Group has engaged Doppelmayr, a ski lift manufacturer, to begin the process of replacing the Rangeley Double Chair with a fixed-grip quad chairlift.
According to the news release, in order to facilitate a smooth transition, the Berry family and Majella Group have agreed to a written operating agreement that allows Majella to immediately begin performing the work required to prepare for re-opening, including assessment of all lifts.
Bill Berry said in a prepared statement that he hoped Majella could succeed at Saddleback in a way his family couldn’t.
“Saddleback is a fantastic place. I have skied there since 1971,” Berry said. “Hearing that Saddleback was closing in 2003, my family purchased and upgraded the mountain to the best of our ability. We had a vision we pursued for 12 years. For the past two years, the family has been looking to turn the mountain over to a group we thought could accomplish what we couldn’t. We trust the Majella Group will do that. We believe that Majella has the vision, the economic horsepower, and the will to develop Saddleback into the four-season resort we have long envisioned.”
Saddleback, a 4,120-foot mountain, first opened to skiing on Dec. 31, 1960. In July of 2015, the Berry family announced that they would not start winter operations unless they could replace the Rangeley Double Chair lift. The mountain hasn’t opened since.
Monsour has lined up a local management team to run Saddleback. Longtime Saddleback manager Jim Quimby will run mountain operations, while Rangeley residents Greg Andrews and Perry Williams will lead the management team under the direction of Majella’s CEO-Western Region Fred LaMontage. Retired Maj. Gen. John W. Libby will continue to advise Majella.
“We believe Saddleback requires a plan to create more lodging, more restaurants, and additional on-mountain opportunities,” Monsour said in the release. “We want to attract significantly more visitors to Rangeley in all four seasons and create a mountain experience that complements and energizes the Rangeley business community.”