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Va. resort approves sale to Greenbrier owner

WINTERGREEN, Va. -- Wintergreen Partners Inc. members have approved the $16.5 million sale of Wintergreen Resort to Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier.

The Daily Progress reported that members voted 1,219-21 on Sunday to approve Justice's acquisition of the resort in central Virginia. Justice will pay $2.5 million in member consideration and $14 million at closing.

"I think it's a fantastic result for Wintergreen and a fantastic result for Nelson County, and it's good for the economy of Central Virginia," Wintergreen attorney Dion Hayes said after members met but before the vote.

Wintergreen encountered financial problems earlier this year because of a mild winter, the loss of its $3 million line of credit with Bank of America and a now-settled tax-credit dispute with the state of Virginia.

The resort laid off about a dozen full-time staffers earlier this year, and asked its members for help. They received renewal notices for 2013 about four months earlier than usual.

Justice addressed Sunday's meeting before the vote.

"I don't want the vote to be close," he told the newspaper. "In fact, I wouldn't want to be the winner at the buzzer. The only way this place is going to survive is with my best efforts, along with the support and best efforts of all those that have a vested interest here."

One of his first priorities is to pursue expanding Wintergreen's snowmaking capacity, which would allow it to have a longer ski season, he said.

Kathy Gunner and her husband, Lee Gunner, are Wintergreen members. She said the change in ownership is bittersweet.

"We have been [property] owners, and we have an investment here and we know the board personally. But I think after hearing [Justice], it's clear that he's going to make this a sustainable resort that we'll all continue to enjoy and be very proud of."

In 2009, Justice bought The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., out of bankruptcy.


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