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Greenbrier owner Justice buys Va. resort

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, said Friday that he has acquired the Wintergreen Resort in Virginia.

Wintergreen Partners' board of directors has approved the merger agreement, and the transaction should be finalized before June 30, according to a news release.

"I'm really tickled to be able to conclude the transaction because I do think it's another complement to all we're trying to do at The Greenbrier," Justice said Friday afternoon.

The Wintergreen resort, located west of Charlottesville and north of Lynchburg, sits on 11,000 acres next to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The resort offers skiing and mountaintop and valley golf courses.

Justice said the logistics behind cost of the resort are "very complicated" but that the final purchase price will be between $12.5 million and $16.5 million.

He said he was interested in getting the resort partly because it was one of the last places he was able to play golf with his father.

Justice also said he wanted to help revitalize the resort, which he said fell on hard times, especially after last season's lack of snow.

The Roanoke Times reported in February that the Wintergreen Resort had to cut or restructure 12 jobs to deal with a $4 million to $4.5 million shortfall because of the winter's warm temperatures. The article also said the resort was contemplating a management plan that would reduce operating costs by $1.5 million.

L. Allen Bennett Jr., chairman of Wintergreen Partners, said in a news release that he is excited about Justice's vision for the resort.

"While we've had our own challenges over the past several months, we are gratified to have found an excellent business partner who has provided Wintergreen with the opportunity to grow, while at the same time preserving the family-oriented nature of our community," the release said.

Justice said he hopes to be able to bring some certainty to the resort's nearly 2,000 members and create a "new marriage" between the Wintergreen Resort and The Greenbrier, which is about a two hours' drive west.

Justice bought The Greenbrier three years ago, after CSX put it into bankruptcy. The hotel had lost $90 million over the previous five years, including $35 million in 2008, according to reports at the time.

Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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