Ski area will close if financing cannot be obtained.
Sunday, August 2, 2015, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
In a Friday afternoon Facebook post, the owners of Saddleback announced a the future of the ski area will likely be announced by the middle of next week. If $3 million in financing cannot be obtained to purchase a new fixed grip quad chairlift to replace the main Rangeley double chairlift this year, the owners say they will close the ski area.
The Rangeley Double is a 1963 Mueller lift modified with a new Doppelmayr-CTEC drive in 2004. The drive terminal was placed on the market for $200,000 in June, and the entire lift for $350,000 in July. The ownership reports that $3 million is needed for a new lift, and that they are hoping to have an answer from lenders during the first week in August.
Owner Mark Berry is quoted in a July press release as saying, "[I]n order for Saddleback to be sustainable for the long-term, we've decided the lift must be replaced. For the last several months, we've been actively seeking the necessary financing to replace the chairlift, however time is running out. We only have a few weeks to make this work. In order to open this winter, we need to order the new lift by early August."
Berry went on to say, "[W]e are now calling on those who treasure what Saddleback is to the people of Maine to help us find a solution."
Heirs to a large insurance company, Bill and Irene Berry purchased the Rangeley ski area and thousands of acres surrounding it for a reported $8 million in 2003, following an announcement from prior owner Donald Breen that it would close. Two new quad chairlifts were installed in subsequent years in conjunction with a major base lodge expansion. The Oquossoc Cove Marina was added to the fold in 2009.
After obtaining is B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh University in 1955, M.S.T. in biology-geology from Colby College in 1966, and Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Kansas in 1970, Archie "Bill" Berry Jr. joined the faculty of the University of Maine at Farmington. A longtime Saddleback skier, Berry purchased a condo near the ski area in the early 1990s and retired from UMF in 1996. Berry's son Mark worked at Sugarloaf and ran Titcomb Mountain ski area (to which Bill Berry made significant contributions).
In 1971, the U.S. Investment Corporation was founded, which would include Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Company and US Underwriters Insurance Company. On August 8, 2000, Berkshire Hathaway acquired the U.S. Investment Corporation for an estimated $160 million in stock, mainly transferred to the extended Berry family.
On July 28, 2003, Saddleback, Inc. and Saddleback Land & Timber Corp. were incorporated in the State of Maine. Bill Berry, his wife Irene Berry, and their seven children soon took ownership of the 8,000 acre Saddleback tract via their corporations.
Since 2005, Saddleback has entered into multi-million dollar financing agreements with UnitedKinfield Bank, Camden National Bank, Skowhegan Savings Bank (via Finance Authority of Maine), and Coastal Enterprises Inc.
The Berry family placed the ski area on the market in 2012.
In recent years, members of the Berry family have loaned money to both corporations.
In May 2014, the Berrys sold 1,750 acres of land to generate funds.