Crime and Justice

More bidders in the mix as Jay Peak resort heads for auction Wednesday

The Tram Haus Lodge at Jay Peak Resort in June 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Jay Peak resort, the Vermont ski area at the center of the largest fraud case in the state’s history, hits the auction block Wednesday with up to three bidders expected to compete for ownership rights.

The identity of only one of the anticipated bidders, Pacific Group Resorts Inc., based in Park City, Utah, was revealed in a court filing last month. 

“There are at least two total bidders, possibly 3,” Steve Wright, Jay Peak’s general manager, wrote to VTDigger Tuesday in response to questions. “The auction is a closed event to the best of my knowledge and I’m not at liberty to mention who is presently at the finish unfortunately.”

He said he could reveal few other details about the auction other than to say it is set for Wednesday.

Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed receiver in charge of overseeing Jay Peak, did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Goldberg stated in an Aug. 1 filing in federal court in Florida that Pacific Group Resorts Inc. had offered an initial bid of $58 million for Jay Peak. Goldberg asked a judge to allow him to seek out other qualified buyers and, if a matching or higher price were offered, permit him to hold an auction to sell the resort. 

The judge agreed to that request.

If at least one other qualified bid were submitted, the filing stated, an auction would occur with bidding starting at the $58 million offer. Bidding would then rise with an “initial bid increment” of $1.75 million or higher, followed by bid increments of at least $250,000.

Ariel Quiros, Jay Peak's former owner, is in federal prison, as are Bill Stenger, the resort's former president, and William Kelly, an advisor to Quiros. All three men were indicted and later convicted of charges related to a failed initiative to build a $110 million biomedical research facility, known as AnC Bio Vermont. 

The men raised more than $80 million for the project from over 160 foriegn investors through the federal EB-5 visa program. Despite raising those funds, the project barely got off the ground before federal and state regulators stepped in and shut it down in April 2016, terming the project "nearly a complete fraud."

The regulators also accused Qurios and Stenger of misusing more than $200 million of more than $350 million they raised for a series of EB-5 financed projects, including massive upgrades at Jay Peak and nearby Burke Mountain ski resort.

The foriegn investors each put at least $500,000 into the projects through the EB-5 program and were seeking green cards in return, provided the projects met job-creating requirements. However, hundreds of those investors have failed to obtain the permanent U.S. residency they were seeking due to the criminal activity and misuse of the funds.

Goldberg has served as the receiver for the properties tied to the fraud case since regulators brought civil enforcement actions against Quiros and Stenger in 2016. 

Part of Quiros’ settlement with regulators was a requirement that he surrender $81 million in assets, including the Jay Peak resort. Goldberg has since put the resort on the market, with proceeds from the sale expected to go to defrauded investors on a “pro rata” basis.

It’s not clear how much the resort could sell for at auction, though the initial bid of $58 million is lower than previous valuations.  

In 2020, Jay Peak officials challenged the town’s grand list value of $121 million. A later settlement between Jay Peak officials and the town resulted in an assessed value of about $85 million for the resort. 

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