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March 11, 2006

Sale is good news to many

      BELLAIRE - Word of Shanty Creek's sale this week struck Bob James as perhaps just another rumor.
      There's been plenty of gossip and speculation along those lines in the 16 months since Comerica Bank foreclosed on the resort, said James, who owns a home there.
      "We were excited when we were told and we hoped it wasn't another piece of the rumor mill," said James, president of the Schuss Village homeowner's association. "No one's been happy with the big cloud of doubt hanging over the resort and rumors flying around."
      This time it's no tall tale. Trinidad Resort and Club, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Apex Oil, confirmed plans to purchase Shanty Creek, a deal to be finalized March 20.
      The resort's 600 or so employees were told in a meeting Thursday morning, said resort chief operating officer Jack Garagnani.
      Word of the sale came as a relief to property owners in the resort, who worried about their land values amid Shanty Creek's uncertain future.
      "We're very pleased and we're hopeful (the buyer) is someone with ... experience and money to invest in the resort, because it needs some investment," James said.
      Apex Executive Vice President Doug Hommert said Trinidad and other Apex subsidiaries own and operate a number of golf courses, but declined to give specifics.
      For most of the 1980s, Apex owned Copper Mountain, one of Colorado's largest ski areas. Apex no longer owns it, but Apex CEO Paul A. Novelly remains on the board of directors for Intrawest, the company that operates Copper Mountain.
      Novelly has experience in both commercial and residential development projects, including a 5,400-acre golf and housing development in the St. Louis suburbs, according Intrawest's Web site. Novelly founded a travel agency under the Apex brand as well.
      "We've got very experienced people with us," Hommert said.
      He did not divulge specifics of the Shanty Creek deal or detail Apex's immediate plans for the resort, a sprawling complex west of Bellaire that includes three residential villages, four golf courses and two ski areas.
      "We're looking forward to it," Hommert said of the pending acquisition. "We're going to give it our best."
      Bellaire area chamber of commerce director Pat DuBois said the sale announcement was "absolutely positive" news.
      "We're looking forward to the new owners and positive changes," she said.
      Comerica Bank seized Shanty Creek in the fall of 2004, when former parent companies - run by locals Tom LaVanway and Terry Shieber - could no longer keep up with the $20 million mortgage payments. The bank, after the foreclosure, brought in an outside firm to manage the resort while it marketed the property to find a new owner.
      "They didn't do anything quickly - I'm talking about the bank," DuBois said. "Slow and steady. Perhaps that's all for the good. I imagine they have come up with a reliable buyer."

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