Bear Mountain resort up for sale

Bear Mountain is up for sale.

Gary Cowan, CEO of Bear Mountain Land Holdings, has put the resort on the market.

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“Bear Mountain Holdings has engaged Colliers International to find a new long-term owner for our development lands and resort properties,” Cowan said Friday.

Bear Mountain Holdings has been running the resort, golf courses and real estate since November 2010 on behalf of owner HSBC Bank Canada.

The bank took control of Bear Mountain after an eight-month, court-ordered restructuring. Bear Mountain had been under creditor protection, and founder Len Barrie was removed as CEO in March 2010, at the behest of HSBC, the original financier, which was owed more than $250 million.

Cowan said the sale coincides with the third anniversary of HSBC’s takeover, adding the bank had always said it anticipated a three-year process to trim costs and prepare for sale.

A sale could also mean the bank would avoid some major expenses and a long fight to rezone development land.

Bear Mountain Land Holdings, already having to deal with short-term operating costs, is staring down the looming bill for its share of the estimated $25-million cost of completing the Leigh Road interchange and building an extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway.

The sale could be seen as good news for the Bear Mountain golfing community, which had voiced its displeasure over Bear Mountain Land Holdings’ plan for redevelopment.

The plan, designed to ensure long-term viability of the development, included cutting the two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses down to a total of 27 holes, and a proposal for 435 new detached homes, new walking and biking trails and more parkland.

It was met with opposition from golfers and members of the newly formed Bear Mountain Community Association, which sent more than 120 letters to Langford council in protest.

That plan now appears to be up in the air, though Cowan said a new owner might consider it an option.

“The decision to go to market will ensure that the new owner has input into the ongoing City of Langford rezoning process and key investment decisions that [will have an] impact on both the immediate and long-term development plans for the resort community,” he said. “We have provided one option that we think is a very good option. . . . We think our new plan provides an opportunity to restart development, and it brings better certainty for the community.”

What HSBC might expect to get for the property, which includes the golf courses, development land and the hotel, is expected to be well short of the $250 million it was owed when it took over the project.

There have been rumours of offers as low as $35 million and $50 million over the last few years, but Cowan would neither confirm those nor speculate on the price HSBC was hoping to get for it.

Colliers, which is going through the due diligence process with Bear Mountain Land Holdings to assess the property, has not listed the property publicly and may not do so.

“Essentially, it will be a private process. Colliers will take it out to selected and known potential qualified purchasers,” Cowan said. “But it will be a broad-based marketing process, and obviously we want to canvass where we think the interest will come from. That’s a decision Colliers will make as they gear up to provide the information and talk to the various contacts throughout the world.

“I think [Colliers] are pretty impressed with the quality of Bear Mountain and the potential of the resort assets, and we both feel it has great growth potential and it’s a good time for new owners to capitalize on Bear Mountain’s next stage of growth.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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