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Saddleback: Australian CEO remains 'committed,' but the money isn't there

An Australian development group promised to make Saddleback a four season resort - but the group still hasn't come up with the money to finish the deal.

Kristina Rex

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"[It was] devastating.
Absolutely deserted. You come off the mountain and go to a restaurant, you'd be the only one sitting in it.
In my lifetime, it's the worst winter I can think of.
We lost probably about 30 percent of our business.
I've cut back staffing.
Without [Saddleback], we suffer greatly."

RANGELEY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - These are just come of the quotes from Rangeley residents in NEWS CENTER coverage over the last two years.

Saddleback Mountain has been closed for two seasons - and despite a sale announcement this summer, downhill skiing could be closed for a third.

Current owners Bill and Irene Berry announced they would sell the ski resort to the Australian development group, 'Majella' - but the sale hasn't gone through.

The big question is: Why?

NEWS CENTER has learned exclusively that the money isn’t there.

The sale was supposed to be finalized by the end of the summer, but the Majella Group of Brisbane, Australia has yet to come through with the money to close the deal - and time is ticking.

There’s a secrecy surrounding the deal – and as NEWS CENTER’s Kristina Rex sought to find the truth, all she found were tight lips and closed doors. No one from the buyer or seller’s side was willing to talk on the record.

This comes five months after hope was at an all-time high, when Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour promised in a press conference to make Saddleback “the premier ski resort in North America.” He was met with applause, and a huge sigh of relief from the community.

“Everything excites me about this project,” Monsour told NEWS CENTER on June 28. “I mean who couldn’t be excited about Maine?”

It’s November now, and ski season is here – but no skiers are on Saddleback Mountain.

Locals are staying hopeful - relying on infrequent Facebook posts for slivers of information about their beloved mountain.

In September, Monsour wrote, “The only thing that is going to hold up or delay this process is Mother Nature.”

In October, he wrote, “Please do not take our silence as a lack of progress, rather a focus on the task at hand.”

And in November, “We are continuing to work to successfully finalize this sale. We have encountered delays that have impacted our timelines.”

They’re monthly promises, that though the sale isn’t final, work is being done. Every post is written by Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour.

On November 16, via a phone call, Monsour told NEWS CENTER “As we've said before, this is a complex deal that has many conditions to the sale that we are working through with our finances.”

What exactly does this mean? The Brisbane-based CEO won't say.

A source familiar with the Saddleback deal tells NEWS CENTER "there is a plan in place to complete the transaction upon receipt of the funding."

Translation: the money isn’t there yet.

NEWS CENTER asked Monsour on the November 16 phone call, “The delay in this case, you said in the Facebook post that it's on your end. So is it financial?”

He responded, “We're working with our funders and our financers, as I said, on this very complex deal to ensure that we don't just have the funds to close, but we have the funds to move forward. We are getting a whole package, not just to close the mountain [sale] but to actually develop and continue on for years to come.”

Majella, the organization that once billed itself as "the leading developer in southeast Queensland, Australia" was supposed to pay and finalize the sale at the end of the summer.

With snow on the mountain, if the group doesn't come up with the money soon, the deal could fall apart entirely.

To end our phone conversation, NEWS CENTER asked Monsour if there was a chance this deal doesn’t go through. He responded, “I and Majella are committed to the deal.”