Almost from the beginning of the 1987-88 ski season, rumors have persisted that Snowbird Corp. was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The sudden resignation of Rene Meyer as president of the ski area this week added to speculations.
Thursday, in a conference room at the area's new Cliff Lodge, Thurman R. Taylor, newly appointed president of Snowbird Corp., met with media representatives to answer questions about the move and about the future of the resort.During his introduction, Taylor, 51, said he has been involved in upper-level management of the area since 1977, and was now looking forward to working in the day-to-day operation.
"Another piece of news I would like to share with you today is that Snowbird has secured a financing package for the resort that will put us on a sound basis for the next several years.
"Snowbird has a very bright future now."
Asked about reported financial problems, Taylor said he feels two things have led to those reports.
"The sources," he said, "dealt with the fact the Cliff Lodge did not have the permanent financing until just recently. That, coupled with the fact that we've had a couple of low snow years here . . . but we're on a sound basis now."
He said the long-term loan agreement to replace the short-term, high-cost loan was signed about three weeks ago.
"It'll be a few more weeks while we do documentation before it's completely finalized, but we have an agreement with the lending institution," he said.
The root of Snowbird financial troubles stems from the $68 million expansion of the Cliff Lodge to a deluxe 532-room resort hotel, complete with shops, restaurants, health spa and conference center.
The lodge was opened in December 1986, but, as Taylor reported Thursday, it wasn't until recently that permanent financing was found. The total investment in Snowbird is more than $160 million.
Dick Bass, who financed and developed the area at its inception in 1969, still holds 100 percent ownership. Snowbird opened its lifts in 1971.
Because of poor snow conditions last year, overall ticket sales were down from the record 1985-86 season. This year, again, because of poor snow conditions early and a late opening, the resort is again showing a drop in ticket sales.
"This year, as far as skier count, I think we'll be fairly close (to last year)," Taylor said. "As far as the hotel occupancy, we're going to be ahead of last year. This coming summer is looking good, very good compared to last year, so we're moving in the right direction."
He also said the resort had no plans to expand area facilities, "but to consolidate what we have here, right now, and to make certain we operated Snowbird as one of the best year-round resorts.
"Our thrust now is to make certain we operate what we have in a very good manner."
Meyer submitted his resignation on Monday, citing personal reasons and crowding at top management positions. Meyer took over the Snowbird post in 1979. Prior to coming to Snowbird, Meyer was senior vice president at Sun Valley in Idaho, and was at Yosemite National Park in California for two years.
Taylor began working for the Bass family in 1969, handling financial matters for H.W. Bass and Sons in oil, gas, coal and other businesses, including Snowbird.
He has been involved with Snowbird management and development since 1977 and was appointed chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1984.