Court-appointed receiver aims to sell Burke Mountain ski resort by year’s end

Skiers and snowboarders play in fresh snow In February 2019 under the Mid-Burke Express chair lift at Burke Mountain. The East Burke, Vt., ski area is known for classic trails and glades. (Courtesy Burke Mountain)

Skiers and snowboarders play in fresh snow In February 2019 under the Mid-Burke Express chair lift at Burke Mountain. The East Burke, Vt., ski area is known for classic trails and glades. (Courtesy Burke Mountain) Photo courtesy Burke Mountain

By ALAN J. KEAYS

VTDigger

Published: 07-10-2024 4:01 PM

The court-appointed receiver overseeing Burke Mountain ski resort for the past eight years reports once again that he has at least one potential buyer lined up for the ski area, and that others may soon be submitting bids.

Michael Goldberg included the latest update in plans to sell the Northeast Kingdom ski area in a 221-page court filing detailing his work over the past several months.

“The Receiver, through his efforts, has identified a party interested in serving as a stalking horse bidder for the Burke Mountain ski resort,” Goldberg wrote in the filing.

“As such,” he added, “the Receiver and his professionals have commenced the process of negotiating and drafting the corresponding Asset Purchase Agreement and attendant Bid Procedures for the sale, with the goal of completing such a sale later this year.”

A stalking horse bid is an initial bid that sets a minimum price for the resort.

The filing does not name the “stalking horse” bidder nor does it state when a possible auction would take place.

The approach to selling Burke Mountain appears similar to the one Goldberg took when selling the Jay Peak ski resort nearly two years ago. Both resorts were at the center of a massive fraud scandal involving the federal EB-5 visa program that came to light in 2016. Pacific Group Resorts Inc. of Park City, Utah, made an initial offer on Jay Peak, which was followed by two other bids. PGRI ultimately won the auction with a $76 million bid.

The price for Burke Mountain, a much smaller ski resort, is expected to be much lower than that of Jay Peak. According to town records, the resort’s assessed value by the town of Burke is roughly $20,300,000.

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Burke Mountain is the home resort to Burke Mountain Academy, an elite training school for top international skiers who have included Olympian Mikaela Shiffrin.

Goldberg last reported on the potential sale of the ski area a little more than a year ago, in a court filing. At that time, he also wrote that he had a bidder and hoped that a sale would take place by the end of 2023.

The latest filing does not provide any information about why the timeline had been pushed back, and Goldberg did not return messages Tuesday seeking comment,

Goldberg was appointed the receiver in charge of overseeing Jay Peak and Burke Mountain in 2016 when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought a civil fraud lawsuit against Ariel Quiros, Jay Peak and Burke Mountain’s former owner, and Quiros’ business partner at that time, Bill Stenger, Jay Peak’s former CEO and president.

The two men had funded massive upgrades at Jay Peak resort, including new hotels and a water park, paid for with money raised through the federal EB-5 visa program.

They were also working on building a hotel and conference center at Burke, financed through the EB-5 program, when the civil enforcement actions were brought against them, alleging Quiros and Stenger misused $200 million of the more than $350 million they raised from EB-5 investors.

Regulators said Quiros “looted” more than $50 million for himself for personal expenses, including buying a luxury condo in New York City. Foreign investors through the EB-5 program can gain permanent U.S. residency, or green cards for themselves and family members, if they invest at least $500,000 in job-creating programs or projects, and job targets are actually reached.

Goldberg has stated in past court filing that proceeds from the sale will be distributed to the defrauded investors in the hotel and conference center at Burke.

Quiros and Stenger were also federally indicted on crimes in connection with another EB-5 financed project — to build a $110 million biomedical research center in Newport.

Quiros is still serving his five-year prison term while Stenger was released after serving roughly half of his 18-month sentence in prison.

The hotel and conference center at Burke Mountain has since been completed and has been in operation for several years.

Goldberg submitted his recent filing in the U.S. District Court in Miami, Florida. That’s where the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought its civil enforcement action since Quiros was residing in Florida at that time.

Also in the court filing, Goldberg wrote that he is seeking $618,399 as his latest request to cover fees and expenses for himself and other professionals in overseeing the assets at the center of the EB-5 scandal in Vermont from Sept. 1, 2023, to May 31, 2024.

“During the Application Period,” Goldberg wrote in the filing, “the Receiver and his team of professionals made significant progress towards winding down the Receivership and maximizing the value of the estate’s remaining assets for the benefit of defrauded Jay Peak investors.”

The fee request, if granted by the federal judge overseeing the receivership, would bring the total fees and expenses for Goldberg and other legal and financial professionals who have assisted him to $12,489,734 since his appointment in April 2016.