Les Otten resigns from ASC board | SteamboatToday.com

Les Otten resigns from ASC board

— Leslie “Les” Otten, the controversial American Skiing Co. founder, has resigned from the company’s board of directors.

American Skiing Co. announ-ced Otten’s resignation in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday.

“Les Otten has been an integral member of the American Skiing Co. board since he founded the company in 1996,” board chairman Steven B. Gruber said. “He was one of the real innovators in the ski industry, and the company has benefited greatly from his insights. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank him for his service.”

Otten’s resignation is effective immediately.

“I leave the board with mixed feelings,” Otten said. “It’s been a pleasure to serve and help guide the company, and I wish everyone well. I truly enjoyed my tenure with the board, but now it’s time to look at other options.”

Since resigning as CEO of ASC, Otten helped put together a group of investors, led by John Henry, that purchased the Boston Red Sox in 2002. Otten has a minority stake in the team and is a vice chairman.

Otten drew criticism as he made ASC into one of the largest skiing companies in the country and later floundered under the burden of real estate debt incurred by deals Otten pushed. ASC owns the Steamboat Ski Area, although it has agreed to sell the ski area to Intrawest in a deal that is expected to close next month.

“Les came to town with big ideas that didn’t gel with what had traditionally taken place here,” former city council member Jim Engelken said. “And he had a rough beginning.”

One of Otten’s projects after ASC acquired the Steamboat Ski Area was to build the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and Conference Center. But the one-eighth timeshares that were key to the hotel’s success floundered. ASC finally auctioned the unsold inventory of timeshares last year.

Otten “was going to build as fast as he could. He was going to make money selling real estate so fast that debt would never catch up to him,” Engelken said. “But that didn’t work.”

Otten resigned as chairman and CEO in 2001 as the company’s fortunes – and its stock price – plummeted.

He became a symbol of the company’s woes. Bumper stickers in Steamboat read, “More snow, less Otten.” After his resignation as CEO in February 2001, a celebration dubbed “Otten to be Forgotten” was held at a former Mexican restaurant – El Rancho Nuevo – in Steamboat Springs.

Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said the management team is focused on preparing for the pending sale and that there was not much he could say about Otten’s resignation.

“Steamboat is on an exciting path,” Wirth said. “What’s happened is all in the past. What’s ahead of us is what’s important.”

Otten’s resignation is the latest in a flurry of recent ASC news. The company’s $265 million sale of Steamboat Ski Area to Intrawest is expected to close in the coming weeks. The company also recently announced the sale of Vermont ski resorts Killington and Pico Mountain to SP Land Company for $83.5 million and Vermont’s Mount Snow ski resort and New Hampshire’s Attitash ski resort to Peak Resorts for $73.5 million.

ASC sold Heavenly Ski Resort in California to Vail Resorts in 2002.

If all the pending sales are consummated, ASC will be a fraction of the company it was at the height of Otten’s tenure. It will be down to just three resorts – Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine and The Canyons in Park City, Utah. And those assets could shrink. There was wide media speculation Monday that ASC will sell Sugarloaf and Sunday River – and that Otten is a potential buyer – but ASC has made no such announcement.

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