Potential Hermitage buyer identified

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WILMINGTON — A potential buyer of Haystack Mountain and other Hermitage Club properties involves a group that says it runs a portfolio of commercial real estate worth $200 million.

Rainmaker Mountain LLC is the so-called "stalking horse bidder" named in bankruptcy court documents this week after it submitted a $4 million offer that is expected to start an auction process.

In an email response to the Reformer early Thursday morning, Russell Geyser confirmed his group is behind the attempt to buy the ski area, several hotels and other properties formerly owned by the Hermitage Club. He said his group is only one bidder and he would be "happy to chat" about plans if it has the winning bid.

Geyser Holdings is headquartered in California and Hawaii. The company "focuses on identifying and financing compelling real estate," according to geyserholdings.com.

"We commit our teams in advance of an acquisition to gain a deep understanding of each asset we acquire and subsequently manage," the website states. "This means we're be able to provide not just ownership, but operational guidance going forward, protecting the asset's core strengths and positioning it to grow during the hold period."

The company says it is "known for its solid track record of asset management. Our deal structures provide those who manage the asset on a day to day basis with increased incentives for performance while eliminating inefficiencies that may be left over from previous ownership."

Russell Geyser is described as "a leading financier of real estate and other investments" on a website for Rainmaker Films, a company listed as one of Geyser Holdings' investments. He has invested in and produced movies such as "Lost in the Sun," "Stealing Cars" and "Urge."

Geyser is said to have developed more than 20 shopping centers across the United States and to have been involved in the purchase of many car wash businesses in the country.

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"He ultimately syndicated more than $400 million in commercial real estate between 2004 and 2007, and retains interest and management of some $200 million in current real estate holdings," according to the Rainmaker Films website, with the $200 million figure backed up on the Geyser Holdings site. "Geyser is active as an investor in real estate, apparel (Ballstreet, Protege, We Women), consumer goods (Oishi Box, Ginger Shots, Notorious Burgers) and media, including as co-creator and producer of Mountain Monsters, a top show coming into its third season on Destination America."

The real estate portfolio for Geyser Holdings includes the Las Cruces Springhill Suites by Marriott in New Mexico, and the Poipu Shopping Village and Maunaea Marketplace in Hawaii.

Rainmaker Mountain offered $4 million for the Haystack ski area, Haystack Golf Course, the Horizon Inn and undeveloped parcels of land in Wilmington, and the Hermitage Inn and Snow Goose Inn in West Dover.

Haystack had been run as a private ski resort before Hermitage Club companies faced financial struggles and went bankrupt last year. Hermitage establishments were shut down in 2018 after tax payments to the state were not made.

A separate $3.6 million offer for the Barnstormer chairlift, a six-person with bubble chairs, was submitted by Boyne USA Inc., which operates ski resorts in North America including Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, Sugarloaf Mountain and Sunday River in Maine, Big Sky Resort in Montana, Brighton Resort in Utah and Cypress Mountain in British Columbia. Former club members had invested in the purchase of the chairlift through a group named the Barnstormer Summit Lift LLC.

The Barnstormer group and Berkshire Bank have agreed to terms of the sales, according to court filings submitted this week by Raymond J. Obuchowski, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case. The bank filed a foreclosure complaint involving Hermitage properties in 2018.

If the court agrees to move ahead with Obuchowski's proposal, an auction will soon be advertised. He is seeking approval of a bid deadline of Feb. 20 with a sale on Feb. 25.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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