The American company Vail Resorts Inc has agreed to take a majority stake in Andermatt-Sedrun Sport AG, which controls and operates the mountain resort in southeast Switzerland.
The US firm announcedExternal link on Monday that it had acquired a 55% ownership stake in Andermatt-Sedrun Sport AG from Andermatt Swiss Alps AG (ASA), which is majority-owned by Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris.
“The partnership between Vail Resorts and ASA is expected to drive significant growth to Andermatt-Sedrun through the ongoing investments in the resort, further development in the base area and the inclusion of the resort on the Epic Pass products, attracting a broader population of international guests to the resort who are seeking a high-end destination resort experience in the Swiss Alps,” a statement said.
Vail Resorts is investing CHF149 million ($159 million) to buy the majority share in the company. It is the first investment in a European ski resort by the US mountain resort management company, which reportedly has investments in some 40 ski resorts in the United States, Canada and Australia, including Beaver Creek, Vail and Whistler Mountain.
ASA will retain a 40% ownership stake in Andermatt-Sedrun Sport AG, with a group of existing shareholders comprising the remaining 5% ownership.
ASA will receive a payment of CHF39 million francs, the press release said. The remaining CHF110 million will be used to develop the “guest experience” at the Swiss resort.
This includes “increasing uphill capacity with lift upgrades and replacements, improving the quality of the snow surface through snowmaking upgrades, and improvements and expansions to dining outlets on-mountain.”
SawirisExternal link has given a considerable boost to Andermatt and the region. Andermatt, a former garrison town of the Swiss army in canton Uri, was facing an uncertain future in 2005 when the army left. Sawiris then appeared with his idea of building a luxury resort on the military base.
By no means everyone was enthusiastic. Some saw the environment and farming at risk, others considered Sawiris’s plans too big and unrealistic. However, Sawiris was persistent and conciliatory.
The construction from 2009 of expensive hotels – such as The Chedi, often rated one of the best hotels in Switzerland – and holiday apartments triggered a wave of renewal in Andermatt. Sawiris also built a golf course, an indoor swimming pool and a concert hall. The ski resort was modernised, expanded and merged with that of Sedrun in neighbouring canton Graubünden. In total, Sawiris invested CHF1.1 billion and created 700 additional jobs.
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