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HomeBusinessGrouse Mountain back in B.C. hands, as debt-laden Chinese conglomerate retreats

Grouse Mountain back in B.C. hands, as debt-laden Chinese conglomerate retreats

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Bob Mackin

Rain and wind cancelled the new year’s eve fireworks at Grouse Mountain, ending 2019 with a whimper.

But, two days later, Northland Properties Corp. made Canada’s first big business bang of 2020. The privately held Vancouver hospitality company announced the purchase of the four-season North Vancouver resort from the Canadian arm of debt-laden China Minsheng Investment Group (CMIG).

Tom Gaglardi (NHL)

“With our strong family and company roots in Vancouver, we are excited with the opportunity to make this acquisition,” said Northland CEO Tom Gaglardi in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working closely with the existing team and leadership group, as well the community to ensure we maintain and evolve the iconic Grouse Mountain experience for all of our visitors.”

CMIG bought the resort in July 2017 from the McLaughlin family for an undisclosed amount. The McLaughlins had reportedly been asking $200 million.

CMIG holdings included real estate, insurance, leasing and renewable energy. By September 2018, CMIG was reportedly carrying more than $43 billion in debt. In early 2019, CMIG began to aggressively cut costs and unload assets.

Terms of the Northland purchase were not released.

Grouse Mountain Skyride (Mackin)

Northland owns the Revelstoke Mountain Resort in B.C., 50-property Sandman Hotel Group in Canada, U.S. and U.K., high-end Sutton Place hotels in Vancouver, Edmonton, Halifax and Revelstoke and 60 Denny’s restaurants across Canada.

Its highest-profile asset is the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars, who hosted and won the 2020 Winter Classic outdoor game on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl football stadium.

The Northland purchase of Grouse could open the door to the involvement of former Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. CEO David Brownlie in overseeing operations. Brownlie joined Revelstoke in 2018 as its president, to lead mountain operations, heliskiing and real estate development at the resort. 

Not only does the Northland purchase repatriate ownership of Vancouver’s most popular, privately run natural attraction (it averages 1.3 million visitors annually), but it simplifies the ownership.

When China Minsheng’s purchase was announced July 18, 2017, it said CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. bought GM Resorts LP, and claimed to be 60% Canadian-owned.

Public records obtained by theBreaker showed that CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. was incorporated Nov. 21, 2016 as 1097351 B.C. Ltd. with Kang Yu Canning Zou as the sole director. 

Zou’s address was a $7.6 million-assessed, Shaughnessy mansion near the People’s Republic of China consular compound in South Granville. The property deed was registered in 2009 by businessman Wei Zou and homemaker Xia Yu. 

1097351 B.C. Ltd. became CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. on March 8, 2017, when a second director was added: Liao “Laurence” Feng. According to the CMIG website, Liao is the assistant president of CMIG and CEO of CMIG International. Six days later, on March 14, 2017, GM Resorts LP registered. Both GM Resorts LP and CM (Canada) are registered at the Bentall Centre office of law firm Fasken Martineau.

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