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Bank working to help pay Tamarack lease

by John Miller
| November 7, 2010 8:00 PM

BOISE - Idaho officials said a Credit Suisse Group-led lender consortium is among those working on a plan to pay Tamarack Resort's tardy lease to use state land, as jockeying continues over the failed ski area's future.

Tamarack's lease is for 2,100 acres of state land where most of its ski lifts and its golf course are located, but it missed a payment last January and is now in danger of losing the lease.

There's no final agreement yet, but a payment could cover the $250,000 lease, plus interest of $40,000. A separate $125,000 payment is part of discussions, to cover the first six months of 2011, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

The parties have until Nov. 19 to reach an agreement, though unresolved issues remain that could still scuttle a deal.

Homeowners are counting on the lease being renewed, to help them realize their plan to open a ski season starting Dec. 20. They've offered to help pick up the lease tab, though it was unclear how much they'd be chipping in.

Kathy Opp, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Lands, said Friday her agency's priority is making sure it gets the money that it's due, but that it is also supportive of somebody operating the lifts, which were mothballed in March 2009 as the resort ran out of money.

"From our standpoint, as the trust manager, we're interested in getting paid for the hill," Opp said. "There are a lot of side benefits (to holding a ski season) - to the community, to the people who have homes up there, to Credit Suisse, which is still trying to market the resort."

Jean-Pierre Boespflug, the resort's majority owner, is locked in a bankruptcy battle with lenders led by Credit Suisse. They're owed $300 million from an unpaid construction loan that Tamarack defaulted on two years ago.

Boespflug is unlikely to contribute money to any lease payment, but said this week he's optimistic progress on a limited ski season will be made, once an agreement over the lease has been reached.

"Negotiations between state of Idaho, Tamarack and the (homeowners) are proceeding on course," Boespflug told the AP.

The homeowners and Boespflug agree an operating resort, with skiers sliding down the slopes and lifts whisking them back to West Mountain's 7,660-foot summit, would be more attractive to prospective buyers.

There are at least three offers, ranging from at least $30 million to $42 million, Boespflug has said, though that's just a fraction of the money owed.

In addition to the unpaid construction loan, contractors, sporting goods suppliers and others are demanding tens of millions that Tamarack also failed to pay them.

Tim Flaherty, director of the Tamarack Municipal Association, said separately his group has offered an undisclosed payment from any 2010-11 resort operations revenues to cover a portion of the lease.

His association, made up of homeowners who bought land at Tamarack before the real-estate boom crashed in 2007, aims to use money from its coffers to run the lifts starting just before Christmas. His group has sold nearly 200 season passes for $199, banking nearly $40,000 for a winter operation that would employ 65 people, if it gets off the ground.

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