Ginn drops out of Minturn ski resort | AspenTimes.com

Ginn drops out of Minturn ski resort

Scott N. Miller
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Vail Daily file Bobby Ginn, chief executive officer of Ginn Resorts, celebrated victory in a town referendum at Chili Willy's in Minturn in May 2008.

MINTURN, Colo. – Don’t call it Ginnturn anymore.

Florida-based developer Bobby Ginn has given up his company’s stake in a proposed private ski resort at Battle Mountain in Minturn, a town outside of Vail. Crave Real Estate Ventures will take over the project. Crave is part-owned by Lubert Adler, the Philadelphia-based private investment company that financed the Battle Mountain project.

Crave representative Dave Kleinkopf Wednesday sent a letter to town officials that he’ll take over day-to-day operations at the project. Kleinkopf has been working at the project’s Minturn offices for the last several months as a consultant.

“While there may be some challenges on the horizon, Crave Real Estate and this project’s financial partners are 100 percent committed to this project and its long-term viability,” Kleinkopf wrote.

The letter lauded Ginn’s commitment to the project. “However, given the current state of the real estate industry and general economy, recently, (Ginn) has shifted his focus to areas in his company that need immediate attention,” Kleinkopf wrote.

Ginn has had financial trouble with several resorts, mostly in Florida and North Carolina, in the last year, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy for two and losing two others to forced sales. Speculation has swirled about if, or when, the developer’s financial troubles elsewhere would affect the project near Minturn.

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Lubert Adler took control of the project recently, and gave Crave the responsibility for developing it.

Kleinkopf has spent nearly 30 years in the mountain resort industry. As a former executive vice president with the real estate division of Intrawest, he’s been involved in development projects including the base areas at Snowmass Village and Winter Park.

He joined Crave in February of this year specifically to take on the Battle Mountain project.

“I think this is the greatest piece of ski area and resort real estate in North America,” he said. “This may be the last truly great property left.”

While a new company has taken over the Battle Mountain project, it’s going to be a while before construction starts.

The national economy has to turn around, of course. And there’s the matter of securing water rights for the project. That’s the subject of a dispute in state water court between Battle Mountain and consortium of water users including the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. That case won’t be heard until January of 2011.

Until then, Kleinkopf said, work will continue to secure the town and federal permits required to begin construction. While continuing that work, Kleinkopf said the annexation agreement between Battle Mountain and the town of Minturn will remain in effect. Any changes to that agreement will have to be approved by the Minturn Town Council, he said.

Minturn resident Frank Lorenti, a longtime critic of the Battle Mountain project, said the town council ought to start negotiations with the new owners.

“I think that would be in everyone’s best interest,” Lorenti said. “In this economy, I’d think the new owners would want to make some changes.”

Kleinkopf didn’t rule out the prospect of making changes to the annexation agreement, but said any changes would be subject to public hearings before they could be approved.

Jerry Jones of Avon, a longtime resort developer and consultant, said he believes the Battle Mountain project plan will almost certainly see some significant changes.

“I think their model has to be re-evaluated,” Jones said. “To be realistic, you almost have to sit down and re-do your strategy. You need to ask yourself if what we’d planned is still viable.”

Minturn Town Councilman George Brodin has gone through the entire Ginn saga. He said he’d expect to see some significant changes before the company submits a proposal for a final development plan to the town. And that, he said, will probably take some time to see what the resort real estate market is going to look like on the other side of the current slump.

“It just wouldn’t be economically wise to submit anything now,” Brodin said.

Kleinkopf said project office in Minturn will stay open while work continues, and he plans to be there at least two or three days a week. That won’t be difficult, since Kleinkopf lives in the Denver area and has had a second home in Eagle-Vail for nearly 30 years.

But the team at the Minturn office, once seven strong, has been cut significantly. Just two full-time employees will work out of the project’s office. Former manager Bill Weber – who recently retired to Arizona – remains on the payroll as a consultant, as does communications manager Cliff Thompson.

“That was really hard to do,” Kleinkopf said of the cutbacks. But he added, it just doesn’t make sense to have a full staff while the project moves along in slow motion.

Despite the smaller staff, Jones said the new developers made a good choice hiring Kleinkopf.

“He’s very sharp,” Jones said of Kleinkopf. “That’s a real positive for the project.”

Kleinkopf said he was hired by Crave specifically for the Battle Mountain project. He knows Crave founder Lorne Bassel from his days at Intrawest. And, Kleinkopf said, he was already familiar with the project, given his ski home in Eagle-Vail.

“I know why it’s been attractive to so many people for so long,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”

smiller@vaildaily.com

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