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Wisp ski resort finds a buyer

HAGERSTOWN — The financially strapped owners of Wisp, Maryland’s only ski resort, asked a bankruptcy court judge Friday to approve a sale of the property to a unit of Entertainment Properties Trust, a Kansas City-based real-estate investment trust, for $20.5 million.

D.C. Development LLC of McHenry said the proposed sale, unless topped by a better bid, “will bring the highest and best return to creditors and parties in interest over any other achievable alternative.”

The proposed transaction is set for an approval hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Greenbelt Dec. 4. Wisp plans to open for the season Nov. 23.

“The goal is to have a seamless transition, with no interruptions or changes in guest services, season passes or other reservations and commitments,” said Karen Myers, one of the resort owners. “Along with my partners Gary Daum and Steve Richards, we believe that this ownership change at Wisp will be good for the employees, the resort and the region.”

She said Wisp would hold its annual job fair Saturday to fill about 350 seasonal openings.

Myers and her partners bought the resort on Marsh Mountain in far western Maryland in 2001 for just under $12 million. They expanded the resort’s skiable terrain and snow-making ability, added a snow-tubing park and mountain coaster and enlarged the lodge.

They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2011 after defaulting on nearly $30 million in loans they had received from BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., to build a golf course community near the ski hill. The partners say home sites in the Lodestone golf-course development didn’t’ sell as well as expected in the recession.

The deal with Entertainment Properties doesn’t include the Lodestone development, Myers said. The deal would include a purchase of about 600 acres and long-term leases on another 250 acres, she said.

Entertainment Properties or its subsidiaries own 11 other ski areas in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont, according to the firm’s 2011 annual report. Its other investments include multiplex theaters, entertainment retail centers, wineries and public charter schools.

The publicly traded company reported total revenue of $301.7 million in 2011, up 4 percent from $289.8 million the previous year.

Entertainment Properties said last month it will change its name on Nov. 12 to EPR Properties.