That’s according to Steve Olson, president and CEO of the Kansas-based management group Leisure Hotels & Resorts who spoke at the regular meeting of the Burke Chamber of Commerce at the Wildflower Inn Thursday.
Olson also assured the gathering that the ski area likely won’t be sold any time soon, that EB 5 investors want to help complete unfinished projects at Burke, that laid-off Burke employees will be invited to re-apply and that relations with Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain Academy are being healed and a “symbiotic” relationship with them is his goal.
“How those things got damaged I’ll never know,” said Olson. “But we’ve already started to talk among each other on how we solve those issues and get that taken care of…Clearly we want to be joined (with Kingdom Trails) in some way to make it a seamless interface.”
Olson was accompanied at the meeting by his regional manger, Steve Scherer, and Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Tatge.
Also there was Bill Stenger, who still owns the resort but is prohibited from running it by Federal court order. According to Olson, Stenger is still very much involved at Burke as a consultant.
“He’s always had great concern for this property but I think he was limited as to what he was able to do with it by the other owner,” said Olson. “Those days are gone. We’re gonna improve things here…I have permission from the court and the receiver to work with him. His communication is with me as a consultant to help with decisions and/or find information that is useful. My God, the guy’s been on the ground here for 30 years. He knows everything about the place. So, we need his knowledge and I value it.”
Stenger, who has been named in a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint along with Quiros and accused by the SEC of participating in a eight-year-long “fraud,” only spoke once and when he did he returned the love to Olson and his team.
“I’m happy that I can be as supportive as possible to the community here and the mountain,” said Stenger. “These folks are a very professional and I’m very thrilled that they’re part of it.”
Olson addressed reports that there was no money to re-open the resort and said that’s no longer an issue.
The reports, said Olson, were culled from court documents surrounding a court dispute between the federal receiver - Michael Goldberg - and Stenger’s partner, Ariel Quiros, on how remaining money from the EB 5 investor funds would be used.
“My intentions were to use them for operating and get the hotel open and I believe Mr. Quiros’s concerns were to pay his legal bills and operating expenses he has,” said Olson. “Fortunately, the good news is, the court sided with us. So, the funds have now been released to us. It gives us adequate money to open the hotel.”
Olson confirmed that the letter “Q” - which had been added to the Burke Mountain name by the Quiros family - was being removed and that Quiros’ son, Ary Quiros Jr., was no longer working at Burke Mountain as of Thursday morning.
“Ary has agreed to leave our employment,” said Olson. “He left on very good terms. There was something I read today on Facebook that he left under guard and it didn’t happen. He’s been nothing but gracious with us. He’s giving us all the information we’re requiring - even volunteered to work for free to help solve the issues. And so, I think he’s been trying to do the right things. But that issue has also been taken care of.”
Olson said previous statements from Goldberg of EB 5 investors offering to pay more money to finish uncompleted projects at Jay Peak to preserve their immigration status also extended to Burke Mountain EB 5 investors.
“I think specifically he (Goldberg) was talking about Q Burke first,” said Olson. “That those investors had contacted us to finish it. They were concerned about finishing that as well as the Stateside (Hotel) project [at Jay Peak]. I think that’s very encouraging. I actually think that might be one of the best answers.”
Olson said Burke would need to hire a lot of employees and welcomed laid -off workers to apply.
“Clearly we would encourage them to come back and re-apply,” said Olson. “We’re more than glad to look at them.”
Olson said he has been approached by potential buyers for Burke Mountain but doesn’t see that happening soon. Instead, he’ll focus on re-building Burke into a healthier resort.
“I think we need to focus on getting the properties up and running efficiently and profitably,” said Olson. “The sooner that can be done the sooner we can identify the right buyer.”
Burke officials said Burke’s ski lifts will be open for mountain bikers on Memorial Day weekend and the campground would open on May 20. Olson said he’s already told Burke Mountain Academy that there will be snow on the mountain by Nov. 15.
- Vermont EB5 Regional Center
- Jay Peak - Q Burke Mountain Resort, Hotel and Conference Center L.P.
- UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
- Ariel Quiros
- Bill Stenger
- State of Vermont vs Bill Stenger & Ariel Quiros
- UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION vs Ariel Quiros & Bill Stenger
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