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Whistler ski resort on the auction block?

January 20, 2010 | 11:45 pm

As Olympic skiers head to the starting gate during Vancouver's Winter Olympics next month, bankers in New York will be auctioning off the famous ski resort unless owner Intrawest Holdings can find a way to settle its debts, the Globe and Mail is reporting

The planned sale comes after the company failed to make a payment on a loan.

Intrawest was saddled with $1.5-billion (U.S.) of new debt after a $2.8-billion buyout by New York-based Fortress Investment Group LLC FIG-N in 2006, just before the economic slowdown hit and sales of lift passes and resort condominiums slumped.

The group of lenders, which includes what's left of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., gave Intrawest and Fortress two extensions to find cash to pay down the loan. However, when the parties couldn't agree on a restructuring plan, the banks lost patience and on Jan. 8 gave Intrawest notice that the foreclosure process was beginning, a tactic viewed as a way to increase the pressure on Intrawest and Fortress to find a solution.

If that doesn't happen, the banks plan to auction the company off on Feb. 19. That's midway through the Vancouver Winter Games, which open on Feb. 12 and wrap up with closing ceremonies on Feb. 28.