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Business and Economy

Australian Company to Buy Maine's Saddleback Ski Resort

Fred Bever
Maine Public
Saddleback on Wednesday.

The Saddleback ski area is changing hands, and the new owners say they have the resources to turn the struggling mountain into a four-season recreational magnet.

Saddleback has been closed for two seasons now — two years of hardship for the skiers, condo-owners, residents and Rangeley-area businesses that depend on it. So the announcement of a sale came as a relief.

“We are announcing today that Majella and the Berrys have agreed and signed and executed a full purchase, sale and operating agreement for the mountain in its entirety,” said Sebastian Monsour, CEO of the Majella Group, speaking to more than a hundred interested onlookers at Saddleback’s rustic lodge.

Majella is a family-owned, multinational company based in Brisbane, Australia. The company recently established U.S. headquarters in Portland, and Monsour quickly demonstrated his ability to pick up the local vernacular.

“As you can see, I am truly from away. There are few places that are further from here than Australia,” he said.

Monsour said Majella hasn’t run a ski resort before, but he’s hiring a team of locals to bring the mountain back into service as a four-season resort. He declined to release financial details of the deal.

Irene and Bill Berry, the previous owners who struggled to find the resources needed to install a new lift and other vital facilities, had considered a $6 million deal to sell the core of the area to a nonprofit foundation that included local skiers.

“Basically they would have been doing it on a shoestring,” said Bill Berry.

Berry said while the nonprofit tried to raise capital, Majella was doing due diligence. And he said he’s confident Majella can make the investments needed to secure the resort’s future and help bring back the hundreds of jobs that the mountain once sustained.

“For the past two years we’ve been trying to turn the mountain over to someone who could take it to another level. And our major concern over the two-year period has been basically for the people who worked here,” he said.

Majella is already working with Dopplemayr, a leading ski lift manufacturer, on a fast new lift to replace the resort’s outdated central people-mover, known as the Rangeley lift.

That was taken as a positive sign by the many of the event’s attendees. MaryEllen Maroney, who lives here in Sandy River Plantation, said after years of rumors, locals are starting to believe that the resort’s revival might actually happen.

“Although some people say they’ve gotta have their body on the lift before they really believe it,” she said.

Majella is being careful to keep expectations in check. Fred LaMontage, the former Portland fire chief who will be the resort’s new CEO, said it’s much too early to tell whether the mountain can be brought into shape in time for the coming ski season.

This story was originally published on June 28, 2017, at 6:13 p.m. ET.