AG says proposed sale of Mount Sunapee requires state approval 

  • Mount Sunapee Resort is seen in March 2016. A proposed takeover of Mount Sunapee by Vail Resorts will require state approval to proceed, the Attorney General’s office said Friday, putting at ease mounting questions over the deal’s transparency. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • A snow gun sits idle at the Mount Sunapee Ski resort, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Newbury, N.H. Unusually warm weather has ski areas closed with hopes of colder weather and snow soon. The Mount Sunapee Resort, which plans to resume operations Sunday, says it hasn't had one productive night of snowmaking since Nov. 30. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • The Mount Sunapee Ski Area is seen, Tuesday, April 30, 2013 in Newbury, N.H. The company that owns the Resort ski area is getting another chance to argue that New Hampshire acted improperly in preventing the resort from expanding. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 6/15/2018 7:16:14 PM

A proposed takeover of Mount Sunapee by Vail Resorts will require state approval to proceed, the Attorney General’s office said Friday, putting at ease mounting questions over the deal’s transparency.

In a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald specified that the deal will require the sign-off of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart. The proposal will also be presented at a public information session next week in Newbury, the site of the ski area.

In its letter, the office sought to clear up the uncertainty over the deal, which came as a surprise to state officials. On June 4, Vail announced it would be acquiring the operating rights to three ski areas owned by the Mueller family, including Sunapee, Okemo in Vermont and Crested Butte in Colorado.

But the deal, totaling $82 million, is riddled with complexities.

The acquisition would give the ski resort conglomerate the sublease required to operate Sunapee, but not the lease to land itself. Presently, New York-based hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management holds the land lease with the state, which owns the mountain; in its announcement, Vail said it would spend $155 million to buy itself out of that sublease and take control of the land lease.

Under the state’s land lease, first drafted in 1998, any transfers of the underlying land lease require state approval. But advocates, citing a recent surprise acquisition, had been worried that the details of the new sale could evade public oversight. That latter acquisition – which gave control over the lease to Och-Ziff in 2017 – was structured in a way so as to avoid a state sign-off.

Ahead of a major potential acquisition, MacDonald’s letter sought to assuage those concerns. The transaction at hand is a lease assignation, the attorney general wrote, meaning that it will need to be given by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, a successor to the Department of Resources and Economic Development.

The process, MacDonald said, will be carried out in the open.

“...The Attorney General and Commissioner have stressed the importance of transparency and public involvement with respect to the transaction,” the office said in a release accompanying the letter.

The public information session on the proposed transfer will be held June 19 at 10 a.m. at the Newbury town offices, according to the Parks and Recreation Department.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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