Perhaps the biggest event of next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, won’t be the downhill, or the women’s figure skating finals, or even a USA-Canada gold medal hockey game.
According to Canadian media reports, the biggest event of the Games may be the auction of Whistler Blackcomb ski area, where all the alpine ski racing events are scheduled to be held beginning Feb. 13.
Two lenders — Lehman Brothers and Davidson Kempner – have begun foreclosure proceedings against Intrawest Holdings, owner of Whistler and several Colorado ski areas, for failure to meet a $524 million debt payment, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Intrawest, once North America’s second largest ski resort operator behind only Vail Resorts, sold Colorado’s Copper Mountain ski area in November but still owns Steamboat ski area and manages Winter Park for the city and county of Denver.
Heavily reliant on real estate sales, Intrawest, owned by Fortress Investment Group, took a huge hit when the resort real estate bubble burst in 2008. Unless a deal can be worked out, Lehman Brothers and Davidson Kempner reportedly plan to auction off Intrawest’s assets on Feb. 19 – right in the middle of the 2010 Winter Olympics.