American International Group Inc., the insurer that’s been divesting assets to narrow its focus, agreed to sell ski operations at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain to Vail Resorts Inc.
AIG will retain majority ownership of the base area, which includes a 312-room lodge, along with a country club and future development rights, according to statements Tuesday from the companies. The Broomfield, Colorado-based buyer gains a foothold in the U.S. East Coast to complement locations in its home state, Utah and California.
AIG Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock has been simplifying the investment portfolio, exiting some volatile hedge fund holdings and reshaping its real estate division. The CEO last year completed the sale of International Finance Centre Seoul in Korea. The Stowe deal fits a pattern of AIG retaining financial ties to divested assets, while leaving some oversight to operators with more specialized management.
“Under Vail Resorts’ management, Stowe’s reputation as a premier ski destination with a commitment to excellent service will continue to grow,” Douglas Tymins, president of AIG Global Real Estate, said in the insurer’s statement.
The Stowe relationship spans back to the 1940s when AIG’s founder, Cornelius Vander Starr was frustrated with the wait in line for a ski lift, according to a Burlington Free Press story posted on the ski resort’s website. He decided to put up funds for another lift, and AIG eventually took ownership, the article says. AIG is among insurers that invest premium dollars in real estate to generate funds for when claims come due.
Vail’s stock has climbed more than 20 percent for five straight years through 2016, as the company expanded through deals including the purchase last year of Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. The company agreed to pay AIG $50 million in the Stowe deal, though the price could be adjusted based on earnings and capital expenditures through closing. The Vermont location sells season passes that can be more than $2,000 apiece.
“With the investments in both mountain infrastructure and base area facilities that AIG has made over the years, Stowe Mountain Resort has become the premier, high-end resort for East Coast skiers and snowboarders,” Vail CEO Rob Katz said in the buyer’s statement. “We look forward to working with AIG to continue enhancing the guest experience and to ensure the resort’s long-term success.”
Vail climbed $1.87 to $181.87 at 9:34 a.m. in New York, extending its gain this year to 13 percent. AIG rose 21 cents to $62.71, narrowing its decline since Dec. 31 to about 4 percent.
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