Vail Resorts Inc., which owns ski destinations in Colorado, is buying Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb Holding Inc., North America’s biggest and busiest ski resort, in a cash and stock deal valued at about C$1.4 billion ($1.05 billion).
Vail is offering Whistler Blackcomb shareholders C$17.50 a share in cash and 0.0975 shares of Vail stock for a total value of C$36 a share, or 43 percent more than Whistler Blackcomb’s closing price on Aug. 5, according to a statement Monday. Whistler Blackcomb shares jumped 45 percent to C$36.48 at 9:48 a.m. Toronto time. Vail rose 6 percent to $153.02.
“We will build upon the guest experience at Whistler Blackcomb while preserving the unique brand and character of the resort as an iconic Canadian destination for guests around the world,” Rob Katz, chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said in the statement.
The deal provides the Canadian company with increased financial strength to expand, while giving Vail one of the world’s most popular mountain resorts. The property in Whistler, British Columbia, about 75 miles from Vancouver, draws 2 million people each year to its slopes. While traffic has increased as the low Canadian dollar attracts global visitors, management has expressed concern about the effects of climate change on its operations and sought to diversify.
Whistler Blackcomb’s chief executive officer, Dave Brownlie, will join Vail’s senior leadership team in the mountain division and will continue as the resort’s chief operating officer, according to the statement. Whistler Blackcomb, whose board has unanimously approved the deal, is also nominating one of its directors to join Vail’s board.
Vail pledged to keep leadership local, retain most staff and continue ongoing negotiations with First Nations groups about its master development agreement. Vail said it plans to “invest substantially” in Whistler Blackcomb’s infrastructure and its expansion of four-season activities.
Whistler Blackcomb said it isn’t immune to regional weather patterns and that the transaction secures the “long-term future” of the resort. As temperatures rise globally, many ski resorts, including those in California, have had to delay their season openings or close early due to lack of snow.
Brownlie said in an interview with Bloomberg this year that Whistler Blackcomb could expand its ski terrain by about 25 percent from more than 8,100 acres (3,278 hectares) now.
Greenhill & Co. served as financial adviser to Whistler Blackcomb while Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP and Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP were its legal advisers. Stikeman Elliott LLP and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP provided legal counsel to Vail.
(Updates with share trading and deal details starting in second paragraph.)
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