December 17, 2018
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Report: Foreign buyer says reopening Saddleback ‘not a primary concern,’ wants the resort for its immigrant visas

Saddleback Mountain Resort photo | BDN
Saddleback Mountain Resort photo | BDN
An Australian company announced plans to purchase Saddleback Mountain Resort in Rangeley.

Less than three months after telling reporters his company hoped to “revive this magnificent property,” the Australian executive hoping to buy the Saddleback Mountain ski resort reportedly told his staff reopening the ski operation is “not a primary concern” and that he mostly wanted the mountain for its immigrant visa program.

Portland NBC television affiliate WCSH released audio recordings of the alleged Sept. 11, 2017, staff meeting that it claims were leaked by former employees of the Majella Group of Brisbane, Australia.

CEO Sebastian Monsour announced plans to purchase the ski resort in late June, and in a statement at the time, was careful not to “over promise,” offering no specific date to reopen the landmark Rangeley mountain to skiing. But he also reportedly said his firm set its sights on redeveloping Saddleback, then closed for two straight seasons already, into “a premier ski resort in North America.”

In the recordings published by WCSH, Monsour seems to be heard saying, “We are not going to deliver on Saddleback,” adding that “opening the mountain at Saddleback for the Saddleback resort is not a primary concern for us.”

“The EB-5 program is the reason we are actually buying Saddleback,” he said, according to WCSH. “The mountain and opening the mountain is something we would like to achieve, but if we don’t, we are not going to lose any sleep with regards to it.”

The EB-5 visa program allows foreign investors who, in this case, invest at least $500,000 into a U.S. business and create at least 10 jobs here qualify for permanent residency in America.

WCSH reported that neither Monsour nor the Berry family, which is selling the resort, provided a comment on the recordings.

Attempts by the Bangor Daily News to reach Monsour for comment were not immediately successful Wednesday.

The proposed sale of Saddleback is not the first time the Monsour family has been controversially involved with a property in Maine. Monsour’s father purchased the historic Williston-West Church in Portland in 2011 in hopes of converting it into the North American headquarters for Majella. Neighbors of the church fought the rezoning proposal all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ultimately sided with Frank Monsour.

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