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State agency approves loan, insurance relating to Saddleback purchase

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AUGUSTA – The board of directors of the Finance Authority of Maine approved a loan as well as loan insurance Monday, part of a larger financing package that is part of a Boston-area investment fund’s plan to purchase and reopen Saddleback Mountain.

FAME approved a $1 million direct loan to Arctaris Impact Fund, as well as $2.5 million in leveraged loan insurance for a $12.5 million loan from Arctaris. Both loans are part of $23.5 million in financing associated with Arctaris’ efforts to close on Saddleback, previously the third largest ski mountain in the state and an employer for up to 300 people during peak winter season. That financing package also includes a $1 million loan from Maine Rural Development Authority, approved in December 2019.

Saddleback’s ownership announced the resort would be unable to open for ski operations in the 2015-16 season unless it secured $3 million in financing to purchase a new four-person chairlift. The Berry family purchased Saddleback in 2003, investing more than $40 million in improvements and expanding both the workforce and number of visitors, to as many as 110,000 annually, over a 12-year period.

The Berry family announced that it was actively trying to sell the mountain in 2015, with Saddleback later indicating that ownership was in “serious negotiations” with a potential buyer. In 2016, a community group announced its intention to raise funds to purchase and operate the mountain. Then, in 2017, agreements were signed with the Majella Group, headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, to take over mountain operations, including hiring and replacing lifts. That sale was never finalized, however, and Majella Group’s CEO became mired in financial and legal issues in 2018.

In November 2019, the Berry family announced that it had an agreement for the purchase and sale of Saddleback Inc. and the Saddleback Land and Timber Corp. to Arctaris Impact Fund.

According to a statement released by FAME, the $23.5 million funding package includes private equity, New Market Tax Credits, community loans and community grants for the acquisition of Saddleback. Those funds will cover acquisition costs, as well as renovations, facility upgrades and new lifts and snow-making equipment.

“We are pleased to help re-start this historic and beloved Maine ski mountain and to help stimulate economic development in Western Maine,” said Bruce Wagner, Chief Executive Officer of FAME, in the release. “We know how important this mountain’s success is to the local population and economy, as well as to many others who love to recreate in all seasons in the Rangeley area.”

“Arctaris is grateful for the support of state and local financing partners. We plan to revitalize the mountain resort and provide 200 full-time and seasonal jobs, which will help stimulate the local economy and the state of Maine as a whole,” said Jonathan Tower, Managing Partner of Arctaris Impact Fund, LP.

FAME indicated that resuming operations at the resort was expected to create 71 full-time jobs and another 134 seasonal ones.

Arctaris has raised approximately $2 million in private donations, FAME indicated in the release, including funds from condominium owners, philanthropists and the community at large.

“I am happy to be able to support the great work happening in the Rangeley area, led by community members,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “Tourism is one of the top economic drivers in our state and we are excited to see that the revitalization of Saddleback will bring more visitors to this beautiful area. In addition, outdoor recreation is a vital part of Maine’s economy, as well as important for the public health of our communities.”

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