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March 15, 2018

Audio recording raises questions about Saddleback's future

Courtesy / Saddleback Mountain Resort
Courtesy / Saddleback Mountain Resort
Majella Group, an Australian company that signed an asset purchase agreement to secure ownership of the Saddleback Mountain Resort in late June, announced on its Facebook page last fall that its plans to replace the ski resort's chairlift this season had been delayed, resulting in the ski resort remaining closed for the 2017-2018 ski season. News Center Maine reported that a September 2017 audio recording purportedly has the Australian purchaser saying he "won't lose any sleep" if the ski resort doesn't reopen.

The Australian purchaser of Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley said in an audio recording that he "won't lose any sleep" if the ski resort doesn't reopen.

News Center Maine reported that it received a September 2017 audio recording from a former employee of the Majella Group of Brisbane, Australia, on which Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour says that "opening the mountain at Saddleback for the Saddleback Resort is not a primary concern." Monsour says the EB-5 visa program is the reason his company bought Saddleback.

News Center Maine said it offered to play the tape for the Berry family, the current owners of Saddleback who are still waiting for their money from the Majella Group. Through their advisor Chris Farmer, the family declined.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, under the EB-5 program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

The Majella Group signed an asset purchase agreement to secure ownership of Saddleback Mountain Resort in June 2017. The purchase includes all holdings of Saddleback Mountain Resort, including the resort, base lodge, ski lifts and surrounding timberland, totaling 6,337 acres, according to a press release. The sellers were Bill and Irene Berry of Farmington.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Saddleback had been closed the previous two winters. In a press release, Monsour indicated he would be investing in improvements for the resorts, including replacing the Rangeley Chair and T-Bar.

Farmington residents Bill and Irene Berry purchased Saddleback in 2003, then invested in the mountain, adding a new base lodge, two new quad chairlifts and new trails and expanding snowmaking and glade skiing.

Sebastian Monsour and his father Frank discovered Maine in 2011. In 2011, Frank Monsour purchased the Williston West Church in Portland for his wife, Elizabeth, and began renovations to include offices and accommodation for the Majella Group. Several years later, Sebastian toured the western mountain region with retired Maj. Gen. John W. Libby and Fred LaMontagne, Majella's CEO for the western region. In 2015, the Berry family announced they would not start winter operations unless they could replace the Rangeley Double Chair lift.

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