After years of financial hardship and a soured tax deal with the state, Wintergreen has announced it’s being acquired by James C. Justice Companies, Inc., a coal company that also owns the upscale historic Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
L. Allen Bennett, Jr., chairman of Wintergreen Partners, Inc., announced late last week that the Nelson county ski resort had signed a merger agreement with Justice that will give the company control over the 11,000-acre property.
Justice president and CEO James C. Justice II said in a press release that he plans to "take this property to the next level," and is looking to develop new membership programs and vacation packages.
The deal has been approved by Wintergreen’s board of directors, and goes before its Class A Equity members June 24. The resort said it expected to close the transaction before the end of June.
In April, Wintergreen settled with the state over a questionable land assessment that initially netted the resort $4.6 million in tax credits. The state claimed the land wasn’t worth nearly the $11.5 million it was assessed at, and while details of the settlement weren’t revealed to the public, Wintergreen called the outcome "favorable."
Just weeks after reaching the agreement with the state, the resort announced it was examing several "strategic options," including a partial or total sale.
According to a Forbes profile, James Justice II is a billionaire whose family made its wealth in coal mining in West Virginia. His company now runs commercial grain farms in several southern states, and still has coal mining operations in Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and bought the Greenbrier in 2009 when the resort was on the verge of bankruptcy.