Friday, December 19, 2008

Humber Valley Resort chalet owners take important first steps towards recovery

Wester Star article:

When he bought into the Humber Valley Resort dream back in 2003, Simon Burch never envisioned he would be organizing contracts to provide essential services to the site nearly six years later.

Despite some nightmarish developments in the last year or so, the dream is still alive for Burch and the other chalet owners at the resort who are doing their part to shake the facility out of the doldrums.

In the past few days, service contracts to provide snow clearing and garbage collection at the resort have been confirmed. A flyer, similar to the trucks used to clear the province’s highways, and a front-end loader will handle snow clearing, sanding and ice removal.

Dumpsters will be place on-site for resort owners and users to deposit garbage for regular collection.

Security at the resort, which went into bankruptcy Dec. 5, is in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The provision of water and street lighting is being handled by Ernst and Young, the trustee in bankruptcy.

In addition to those essential services being made available, a number of companies are working on behalf of chalet owners to market properties available for rent. Some chalet owners have opted to take it upon themselves to market their chalets on their own.

With all that in place, Burch — a member of the committee representing 300 chalet owners — said the resort is once again a going concern.

“All the essential services for people wanting to come stay on the resort are now available,” said Burch as he drove past a snowplow clearing one of the resort’s thoroughfares.

“People can safely book a holiday here now, secure in the knowledge they will be able to get in and out of their chalets and arrangements are in place for rubbish and water.

“What they won’t have for this winter is a bar and restaurant. What will happen with those facilities will only become clear as the process of bankruptcy moves forward.”

That’s a big step forward from this past fall when Newfound NV, the owners and majority shareholders in the Humber Valley Resort Corporation, shut the operation down as it filed for creditor protection and tried to restructure the resort’s business plan. Those efforts failed and the corporation went bankrupt earlier this month.

The key attractions of the Humber Valley, said Burch, still are the scenery and the local people. The recent history of the resort generated a lot of bad publicity for it and the Humber Valley region in general, not to mention create bad blood between those who have invested in chalets and the resort management.

Burch will be marketing his own chalet and three others, but didn’t want to do so until essential services were in place.

“There’s nothing worse than letting people down and that’s what the resort did before it went bust,” he said. “They didn’t bother to tell some of the people who had booked that they were closed. For weeks after, people were turning up at the gate, expecting to come in and stay and were being turned away. That was good for local hoteliers, but terrible for the trading reputation of Humber Valley.”

Burch, who will concentrate on marketing to the St. John’s area, expects new marketing efforts from all the owners will ramp up soon.

‘Good future’
“This resort still has a very good future,” said Burch. “All the key building blocks that encouraged us to buy here are still here. What we have is a company that did a terrific job of realizing a vision and building a resort, but a lousy job of running it, that has now gone bust.

“That is a new opportunity for the owners to create, in conjunction with government and all the other local stakeholders in our economy, a structure for the resort that will work going forward, so that, over a period of time, we can realize the vision we all bought into without all the wastefulness and mismanagement that’s plagued the place for the last four or five years.”

Don Cross drives one of the machines owned by NCL Holdings, the Deer Lake company hired to do the snow-clearing duties. He too is confident the resort will bounce back.

“It’s good to see people coming back here who are going to spend time on the west coast,” he said. “The economics of it all still makes good sense for this area.

“It’s too bad so many jobs have been lost, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I definitely think it’s going to rebound. There are too many homes and chalets here to let it go now. There’s no way everybody is going away.”

While the resort owners feel they have gotten over an important hurdle towards recovery, Burch said they only have a short while to catch their breath before going abut the task of revising how the resort will operate into the future.

The next major step will come Jan. 7 when Ernst and Young will meet with Humber Valley Resort’s hundreds of creditors, including chalet owners and Newfound NV — the latter which invested more than $44 million into the resort. According to documents obtained by Transcontinental Media, some 279 creditors are owed more than $100 million.

Not welcome
There has been some talk that Newfound NV could be in a position to actually buy the back the resort as part of the bankruptcy process.

Burch said Newfound NV is not wanted back.

“That would be a travesty,” said Burch. “They have walked away from their commitments to the owners, from their debts to the local businesses and from community and they haven’t demonstrated any commitment to the resort, to the island or to making a success of this place.

“Jane McGivern (Newfound NV’s chief executive officer) is on record in interviews published in property press in Europe that she’s not interested in running a resort — that she’s a property developer. My message would be to go develop your properties and leave us to get on with finding a way to make this resort work without your interference and getting in the way.”

Burch said repairing the resort’s damaged reputation will be the goal of the owners, though he has no idea how that will be done or how long it will take.

“This isn’t the end,” he said. “This is a new beginning. It’s an opportunity for competent management to be brought in and do the job properly and that will make an enormous difference.”

Western Star article Gary Kean

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

HVR never profitable, parent company says

Humber Valley Resort Corp. on Newfoundland's west coast will begin selling off its assets to pay creditors after falling into bankruptcy, its parent company said this week.

The failed high-end resort near Pasadena had been publicly struggling for months with its finances, after laying off 40 workers in August, but its parent company, British-based Newfound NV, said the resort's troubles began the day it opened.

"Newfound is the biggest fiscal creditor of Humber Valley resort corporation," said Newfound NV CEO Jayne McGivern. "We are owed over $46 million because Newfound has been propping up the resort since it began. Newfound has never made a dollar's profit out of Humber Valley Resort Corporation."

The destination resort and golf course sold luxury chalets to foreign customers, offering charter flights from Europe to nearby Deer Lake airport.

McGivern told CBC News the resort lost close to $1 million a year on just the flights alone.
She said by the time Newfound NV took over the resort, it was too late.

"We arrived here in July and we came to the conclusion by September that A, Humber Valley resort corporation was not viable and B, was unlikely to return the monies we've invested in it."
The company had filed for bankruptcy protection in September in efforts to save the resort. However, last week Newfound NV sent a letter, signed by McGivern, to chalet owners advising them that the company would not reapply for bankruptcy protection.

The company had been attempting to restructure itself through Newfoundland Supreme Court-granted protection. In the letter, McGivern said the company can no longer wait for answers from the Newfoundland and Labrador government for assistance on issues such as arranging flights from the United Kingdom to help the company's European clientele.

McGivern told chalet owners that, after weeks of talks with government, she informed officials on Nov. 24 that last Friday was "our absolute deadline" for a reply.

"This was, sadly, not forthcoming," she wrote.

Not only did the overseas flights send the resort into the red, the clubhouse, golf course and restaurant never made any money either, according to McGivern.

The resort owes thousands to contractors and building supply companies, on top of the $46 million it owes Newfound NV.

Web article based on radio interview on CBC 16th Dec 08

Western Star review of Wanderlust article
One of the world’s premiere travel magazines has featured Newfoundland and Labrador in a special anniversary edition. Wanderlust, a leading United Kingdom travel magazine, issued a “100 Greatest Travel Secrets” for its 100th issue and 15th anniversary celebration.

While Sarah Baxter, the magazine’s deputy editor, said the 100 secrets were not ranked, Newfoundland and Labrador certainly deserves being one of the “larger secrets” as the first destination revealed in the issue.

It was geography and attractiveness that led to the province being featured, says the editor.
“The reason we short-listed Newfoundland is because most people in the U.K. fly straight over it,” Baxter told The Western Star. “Tempted by the west coast or maybe Toronto, Newfoundland gets completely overlooked by most Brits and yet it offers all of that wonderful Canadian wilderness — and then some. There aren’t many places where you can simultaneously whale and iceberg watch, without paying hefty prices for a polar cruise. All of this, and not much jet lag.”

She also feels Newfoundland has the authenticity the magazine’s readers crave.
“Fishing is still big business, people don’t lock their doors and are genuinely warm and friendly,” she said. “Reading (William Gray’s) piece, you can almost smell the salty air.”

Gray, an award-winning travel writer and photographer, told The Star he came to Newfoundland to see icebergs. The first-time visitor to the island travelled from Deer Lake through to Gros Morne and up the Northern Peninsula to Quirpon, and back.

While it was after the iceberg season and he returned without capturing a single sighting, he was not disheartened.

The Newfoundland section is entitled “The secret life of bergs.”

It is introduced — “On a quest to spot migrating icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, William Gray discovers Britain’s first-ever New World colony remains as alluring and enigmatic as it was four centuries ago.”

The absence of icebergs was overshadowed by the scenic beauty of the coastline and the abundance of marine and wildlife and food and hospitality. Gray said he wants to return, noting a family vacation would be ideal, and get a glimpse of the elusive icebergs.
He would like to explore the east coast too.

Meanwhile, Maria Matthews, chair of Western Destination Marketing Organization and owner of Vision Atlantic, was thrilled with the feature. She said it was long overdue.

“It just proves what we have known all along, that this destination has the potential to compete with the very best, and how ironic that we are going through this flight nightmare?” she said, referring to the efforts to secure an international flight to the area.

“That’s the biggest impact in this; this has hit the newsstands and you can’t even get to Newfoundland, let alone the west coast.”

Mike Ward, chair of the Humber Valley Resort owners committee, said the recognition portrays the opportunity that exists for Newfoundland as a tourist destination.
“People are clearly looking for a different experience than a typical beach holiday and it is great that the magazine has recognized the potential that exists,” he said.

“Newfoundland has so much to offer and a great quality of life that people return again and again in the different seasons.”

Ward also raised the question of accessibility to the island and the expense of excessive air travel that results from the loss of a direct flight from Gatwick to Deer Lake. Ward has visited the west coast at least twice a year for the last five years, and is hoping for some resolve in travel challenges.

“Gros Morne is a truly special place and tourists love to go whale watching and see the icebergs, and this is very different to holidays in Europe,” he said. “The skiing at Marble Mountain has powder which is better than anywhere in Europe and you get significantly more skiing because of the lack of lineups.

“...Snowmobiling is one of those activities you wouldn’t normally get to do, but the trails in Newfoundland offer a wonderful experience.”

Western Star review of Wanderlust article

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What if Newfound NV want HVR back?

New investors in Newfound NV injected cash specifically into Humber Valley Resort in Summer 08, but appeared to fail in its due diligence, and quickly realised that all was not as it originally seemed. By September 08 Newfound NV had taken HVR into (CCAA) administration and then by December 08 into bankruptcy, openly blaming the provincial government for its predicament - blame which in turn and equally openly the government rejects point blank. [see Western Star article]

But what next?
Hopefully new owners and operators of the resort will be found quickly, and that will work properly with the chalet owners, the local communities/businesses, and the provincial government.

But what if Newfound NV want HVR back?
It's not impossible! Has the whole process been staged to clear the creditors and "start again"? Lets hope not, as all involved need the main operators of the resort to be passionate about Western Newfoundland and the Humber Valley, not just their shareholders.

Above all, if the goal is not to attract tourists and guests to the area - it's not going to work. We've suffered four years of inbalance between schmoozing potential investors, and attracting real holiday makers, resulting in actually the main visitors being the owners and their friends and family.

So how would everyone react if Newfound NV (or one of its partner entities) tries to buy back the resort out of bankruptcy?

Rumours abound!!!

What do you think? If you've got a view, hit the comments link below!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Government did not want resort to go bankrupt

No such preference; Government did not want resort to go bankrupt: Marshall
GARY KEAN The Western Star

CORNER BROOK — Justice Minister Tom Marshall has taken issue with the parent company of Humber Valley Resort’s stance that it was the government’s “preference” for the operation to go bankrupt.

The Tory legislature member for Humber East, whose duties include monitoring developments at the beleaguered resort situated in his district, said government was not about to use the province’s resources to bail out the private business.

The Humber Valley Resort Corporation (HVRC), a subsidiary of parent company Newfound NV, terminated its protection from creditors one week ago today. That same day, the resort filed an assignment in bankruptcy.

This past Monday, chalet owners and other creditors were sent a letter from Stephen Bentley, Newfound’s group finance director, notifying them that bankruptcy has been filed for, and that Newfound, which had sunk about $46 million into the resort, is also now a creditor.
In the correspondence, Bentley reiterated Newfound’s stance that bankruptcy was not the resort corporation’s intention and its chances of avoiding such measures depended on support from the provincial government. The resort wanted government to help maintain direct flights to the United Kingdom, help a local, incorporated municipality to administer basic services such as snowclearing and garbage collection, and free up land the resort had been leasing until recently.

“Whilst initial discussions appeared to be fruitful, in recent weeks it has become clear through media reports and correspondence with the company that the government of Newfoundland would prefer that the resort goes into bankruptcy before they make a decision on their future involvement with HVRC,” wrote Bentley.

Marshall said the province still has not ruled out enhancing marketing effort towards helping fill charter flights, and the Department of Municipal Affairs will work with any municipality considering expanding its services to the resort, but was not going to invest any money directly in the resort.

Fair market value
When it came to the Crown land issue, though, he said there was no way the government was going to give that up without getting fair market value in return.

“Mr. Bentley said it was government’s preference they go bankrupt — we had no such preference,” Marshall said. “...Government’s relationship with the resort was as a landlord only. We had nothing to do with the fact they sought protection under the CCAA and we did not indicate to them in any way they should go bankrupt. That was a decision they made and had nothing to do with government.”

The minister said his 32 years of practising law has shown him that it is typical for businesses that go bankrupt to shift blame for the downfall.

“The research clearly indicates that the majority of businesses that fail, fail because of poor or incompetent management,” he said. “Any business, when it fails, will blame government, their lawyers or accountants. They will assign blame to many people when, in reality, the blame should be assigned to the person they see in the mirror.”

Now that bankruptcy has been filed for, the assets of the resort — including all real property, buildings, equipment and accounts receivable — have been assigned to the firm Ernst and Young, which was the court-appointed monitor of the resort’s activities during the creditor protection phase of its attempt to restructure.

“We are the trustee in bankruptcy until the first meeting of creditors, at which time the creditors will confirm us as trustee or substitute another in our place,” Mathew Harris, managing partner of Ernst and Young’s Atlantic Canada Office, told The Western Star via e-mail correspondence.

“After the meeting of creditors, the trustee will begin the process of liquidating assets — possibly by a tender sale.” That meeting of creditors and the trustee is scheduled to be held in St. John’s Jan. 7.“At that meeting, they (creditors) will elect inspectors to represent the general body of creditors,” said Harris. “The board of inspectors will give direction to the trustee in the administration of the estate.”

Harris could not speculate on how long the process of liquidating assets would take. The money generated from selling off resort assets would eventually be distributed among creditors in accordance with a scheme of priority set out in the federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
Harris said there are several hundred creditors involved, representing indebtedness totalling roughly $65 million. While Newfound NV is one of those creditors, it does not hold any special status.

It is possible Newfound NV could eventually buy the property back. Harris said the bankruptcy process would not give Newfound NV any particular advantage over any other entity interested in taking over the facility.

Western Star web article

We're ... Are you?
Some Newfie videos at

And some strong comments already appearing on the Western Star site - including "Go away Newfound NV ..."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Goodbye Newfound NV

The formal press release from Newfound NV today, was the final goodbye from Humber Valley Resort's (ex-)parent company. Now it's down to the court and it's nominated representatives.

The Newfound NV release follows:

Newfound N.V.

Humber Valley Resort Corporation - update

Newfound N.V. (AIM: NFND) announces that its subsidiary, Humber Valley Resort Corporation ("HVRC"), has filed for bankruptcy following the expiry of proceedings under the Canadian Companies Creditors Arrangement Act ("CCAA") initiated in September2008.

This action does not impact either the financial situation of Newfound NV or the projects at St. Kitts and Nevis, which remain unaffected.

Stephen Bentley, Group Finance Director of Newfound, said: "It was not our original intention that HVRC should make an application for bankruptcy. Indeed we had formulated a draft preliminary plan of arrangement that, in our view, gave the interested parties the best result given the unhappy circumstancesthat Humber Valley Resort Corporation found itself in.

However, our plans required and depended on support from the Government of Newfoundland. Their support was needed specifically with regard to flights to Newfoundland from the UK; support for the municipality that would administer basic services to the resort; and finally, a grant of freehold by the government over the portions of long leasehold land already paid for by HVRC. Whilst initial discussions appeared to be fruitful, in recent weeks it has become clear through media reports and correspondencewith the company, that the Government of Newfoundland would prefer that the resort goes into bankruptcy before they make a decision on their future involvement with HVRC.

In these circumstances, and with Newfound continuing to finance the CCAA process each month, the Board feels it is not appropriate for Newfound to carry on spending significant sums of money where there appears to be little or no prospect of bringingthe process to a firm resolution. We therefore have no alternative but to allow the CCAA process to lapse and for HVRC to file for bankruptcy. I deeply regret that this has come to pass and that Newfound, as the largest fiscal creditor, now joins thewider list of creditors awaiting the outcome of the bankruptcy process."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

HVRC to file for bankruptcy

The end of Humber Valley Resort (as we know it today) ...

With sadness I have to blog that today Humber Valley Resort Corporation (HVRC) announced that it is to file for bankruptcy. See below for their announcement email.

We can only hope that when everyone including creditors, owners and the local community (& its economy) have got through the next stages of the ongoing process ... what's left of the resort and everyone directly and indirectly involved with it, can grow into that vision and belief that we all had, and mostly still have.

We all share the passion of, & belief in, Western Newfoundland & its people. In fact We're Crazy About ... Are you?

Announcement email from Newfound NV:

December 2nd, 2008
Humber Valley Resort Corporation

Dear Owner,
You may recall from our presentation and earlier correspondence that, during the time Newfound has been financing the CCAA process, we also formulated a draft preliminary plan of arrangement that, in our view, gave the interested parties i.e. the creditors and the chalet owners the best result in the unhappy circumstances that Humber Valley Resort Corporation found itself in.

The plan that we had put forward asked the Government of Newfoundland to support it in 3 areas, namely;

* To assist in bringing flights into Newfoundland from the UK

* To work with the local Municipality in their takeover of running essential services on the resort

* Transferring into freehold, the amount of leasehold land that HVRC had already paid leasehold fees on, so that financing of new development could take place enabling the creditors to participate in the resultant profits.

It was not feasible to submit our proposed plan to the Court for approval, or to the creditors and chalet owners to vote on, unless we had some indication of support from the Government, in writing, to it. Conditional support would have been acceptable. The Government have had our proposal for consideration since 16 October. Whilst it is fair to say that we have had encouraging discussions, we have had no confirmation of the Government position, either verbally or in writing. Our initial requested deadline for a decision was 14 November. I was promised on Monday 24 November that, after the Cabinet meeting of 27 November I would be informed of the decision, either way, in writing. I explained during that conversation that we had run out of time as our CCAA protection was due to expire and if I could not submit the plan then I would have no choice other than to withdraw our proposal, which would mean imminent bankruptcy for HVRC. The alternative would be for Newfound to risk a great deal more money as a creditor to HVRC and I do not have Board authority to do so. I was very careful to stress to the Government on Monday 24 November, that I wanted to and was able to continue, but was clear that close of business on Friday 28 November was our absolute deadline for a Government reply. This was, sadly, not forthcoming. I understand, from a third party, that the proposition was discussed as cabinet but there was no resolution. Despite our best efforts, there is nothing further we can do. I am deeply disappointed, as I still believe our ideas were the best possible result in the circumstances.

In these circumstances, I am afraid that we join you all as another creditor, and confirm that HVRC will have to file an Assignment in Bankruptcy, and that bankruptcy is now imminent. I am so sorry not to bring you better news. Should you have any questions, you may, with immediate effect, address them to Mat Harris and his team at Ernst and Young. Derrick White will no longer be in a position to formally help you.

Yours sincerely,
Jayne McGivern
CEO Newfound NV

Monday, December 01, 2008

Last call for creditors to Humber Valley Resort

Monday 1st 5pm ... that's the deadline for creditors!

Owners, construction companies, suppliers and others are all busy completing their CCAA claim forms. What next? Time will tell - perhaps before the next court deadline of Fri 5th Dec.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas eCards

Hey - want to send electronic Christmas Cards (with Western Newfoundland scenes) this year?

Try out

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Advertise your chalet online ...

Finding the right way to advertise your holiday home or investment property is key to finding holiday lets. With the ongoing HST issues for HVR chalet owners, and the lack of co-ordinated marketing effort, online advertising has never been more important.

Here is an offer to get 25% extra adertising time with ... take the link below, and set up your own online advert. If you like what you see you can pay for 12 months, and get 15. It costs nothings to set it up and have a look - so give it a try.

Click here to get more details, and the link to the offer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

HVR/Newfound - Owners meeting gets CCAA plan

Wednesday 22nd Oct (London) - The CCAA meeting with Owners, HVRC, Newfound and the Court Monitor was very well attended with approx 150-170 people!

The 2.5 hrs meeting was well run, and chaired by the court appointed "monitor" Mat Harris (of Ernst & Young). The session covered:

1) explaining the CCAA process
2) what went wrong at HVR (including the sales/costs numbers)
3) how Newfound has been involved
4) what HVRC is doing now on the resort
5) HST issues and the effect on Owners
6) what assets remain, and who owns what
7) Strawberry Hill update
8) outline of the Future Plan - for voting on by creditors
9) Provincial government's involvement and actions - inc flights
10)better understanding of Newfound NV and where they're going

This Blog will detail more about the meeting in the next day or two. However a few notably quotes and notes:

1. "... shambolic way HVR was run ... I've never seen anything like it ... on behalf of the new management, we're sorry!"

2. The sale of Strawberry Hill got just one offer. There was shock at the value offered, ("significantly less than $1M")!!

3. Newfound became involved when HVR desperately needed cash input (summer-08). To speed up the process the previous management provided a "warrantied due diligence" in place of a normal 3 month period. The needed cash was provided. However the full facts had not been delivered and in fact HVRC was hemorrhaging cash. There were even questions raised during the meeting of whether the previous management should face a legal situation ...

4. Issues with construction/design of chalet decks require independent inspection

5. The Plan (all of which requires a lot more detail, and then approval) includes making the resort infrastructure part of Pasadena, to bring in an hotel operator to build in the driving range area, and to develop the Phase2 expansion area (another golf course and 2nd hotel) with some profit to be returned to a creditors pool.

6. The importance of the agreement to The Plan, of all stakeholders including the provincial government.

7. The Plan will be voted on by the end of Dec-08, however Newfound & Aglio will not vote.

As always "The devil is in the detail" ... however we now know a lot more than before, and the options for the future. There are many people hurting right now, and there are a large number of issues to work through - but now are we seeing a light at the end of the tunnel? ... or is someone just shining a torch in our face? Only time & detail will tell !!!

More detail shortly.

We're ... Are you?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Extended CCAA Period for Humber Valley Resort Corp. HVRC

So Humber Valley Resort Corporation (HVRC) filed for the CCAA process on 5th Sept-08. They were back in court 6th Oct-08, along with key creditor representatives including the HVR Owners, Home Construction, Marine Contractors and Maxium Financial Services (golf equipment providers) ...

The resort was looking for extension through to 5th Dec-08 ... which with various caveats ... was granted. There was various debate about the salaries (and extra payments) made to staff that have retained their positions. The punchline being, they keep their pay and agreed extra payments.

Maxim were providers of golfing equipment to the resort, and had an amazing $900k of kit on resort, which they are trying to recover - to no effect as far as the Honourable Justice Robert Hall was concerned! They will have to wait like the rest of us!

The punchline of the session, though with several specific statements and actions, did actually give Humber Valley Resort Corporation (and the other HVR companies) an extension through to 5th December 2008.

Now the HVRC (the resort) needs to present their "plan" ... and get all creditors to accept it.

ALL the key players are in London on Wednesday 22nd and Dublin on 23rd for a presentation by the CCAA Monitor, Derrick White and Jayne McGiven ... (see you there?) ... of the plan and the future ... It would be fair to say the week ahead - is ULTRA IMPORTANT to the future of the resort!

More after the London meeting!

Online newspapers - on the day they get printed !!!

Catch up with the news ... on the day it's printed!

New on ... No need to buy a paper - catch up with the news at home, or where you want. You can now open and read the Western Star on the day it's printed! You can even download the papers and keep them, or subcribe for a daily update of your favourite paper.

Visit to find a wider range of newspapers from around the world. So next time you're travelling you can keep up with home ... or when at home you can see what's making the news in the places that interest you!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Credit crunch ... and the wife?

Credit crunch quote (from a city trader in London this week):

"This is worse than divorce.
I've lost half my net worth, and I still have a wife!"

So what is the impact of the credit crunch on Humber Valley Resort?

Answers on a postcard (as they say in the UK), or for HVR Owners ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Strawberry Hill sold?

So Strawberry Hill was for sale - not for sale - and then for sale again. Originally on for $6.7M CAD in March-08, Strawberry Hill resort was offered by tender as part of the CCAA process.

The tender period closed this week ... so we now have to wait and see what happens next. However the strong rumours are that atleast two parties were actively interested.

I'm guessing that $6.7M is now wishful thinking ...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lucky to see a black fox on HVR? Not likely!

Lucky to see a black fox on HVR?

Not likely!

Countless times we've heard of golfers on the River Course hitting "the perfect drive", but then watching a black fox run across the HVR fairway, picking up the ball, and running off ... I remember Mike Clewer telling a similar story to one of his shots.

And then we organised a Beach Bonfire (Sept-08), and at the end, a black fox runs across the beach and around the fire ...

The next day outside the chalet talking to Paul Hicks & Ed Best ... a black fox runs up ... around us all, and looked totally relaxed.

So - we get home, open the papers - literally on the first day back - and the headline "Unlucky rare black fox spotted in Britain" (Apparrently in medieval times, the black fox was considered a bad omen by superstitious villagers)
Here it is in the UK:
So was the Humber Valley Resort "Black Fox" a sign of what was to come? Or has come?
Link - The Daily Telegraph - BBC News

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The last Beach Bonfire at HVR!

So it's mid September and the resort is now in administration (CCAA in Canadian terms) ... it's all a bit of a shock to everyone (even if actually not a huge surprise). Unfortunately during the previous few days almost all the staff have been laid off - and now it's down to a handful of staff - and a team of security people.

No Beach House, or other meeting place - we had no idea how many people were on site ... So why not organise a reason for everyone to get together? And we did just that - and rung round every chalet to find all those on resort, and make contact with all our staff [errr ... ex-staff] friends via Facebook ... and the word was out - Beach Bonfire on Tuesday night!

Has to be said that there was some who were concerned about the numbers that might turn up - but we didn't see the issue. Garlic bread, pate, cheese, marshmallows, and loads of french bread - oh and a few cases of beer were prepared, as was the bonfire. Ron (from Strawberry Hill fame) eagerly offered to make the bonfire (err "Ronfire"). He really is a very special guy. He spent the afternoon cutting logs with a friend, then built a very impressive fire.

It was a chance for the staff to say goodbye to each other as they'd not had a chance previously - and it was good to meet the rest of the resort guests (not all were owners) - and Margaret Derrick came down and joinned in. Ed Best brought his guitar and we all (tried to) sing along with him.

Some of us were still there at 1:30am ...

Ron maintaining the "Ronfire"

Another good reason to be ... Are you?

That damn black fox again!

The Last Beach Bonfire for 2008!! Humber Valley Resort

Monday, September 08, 2008

Further update - staff meeting

Today's staff meeting announced the layoff of almost all the remain staff at Humber Valley Resort. The only departments officially still on site are Legal, Property Sales and Construction, with Property Sales handling bookings and keyes etc!

** NEW Subscribe to We are by Email **

More news from HVR - No more golf? (for now)

Further news from Newfound NV, and Humber Valley Resort. The following letter is from Derrick White the President of Newfound Canada - sent midday 8th Sept. The big surprise is the mention of "winding down and closing" the golf operation, amongst other services. That said, the devil is (as always) in the detail.

It's all very sad - however if its part of a more co-ordinated plan, then it's hopefully a short term pain for a longer term gain for everyone involved including the local economy. Several of the people we've met in the last few days have commented that they wanted big changes for a number of years.

One of the key changes in our view is the need to enable new international routes through Deer Lake airport (& Stephenville if it can attract them!). And one last comment - on various other news services we keep hearing that Europeans want subsided flights to Newfoundland (it was even said on CBC radio1 by a Brit this morning!) - but it's not what's wanted. What we ALL want is simply international routes to be available and flown - not subsidised!

Then again of course to run a flight route requires guarantees - and that's where the provincial government can help. However the passengers are not wanting subsidies!



It is with considerable regret, but with a determination to move forward, that we write this letter to you.As we are sure you are aware, an intensive review of HVRC, its liabilities both fiscal and legal, has taken place. During this process the company has consulted with outside advisors, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed, many of our owners.

The resultant analysis confirms our initial suspicion that HVRC is technically unviable and whilst historic contractual obligations remain, it will always have a liability that is impossible to remedy. Initial attempts to restructure to bring the overhead to a manageable level, met with considerable opposition, threats, implied and actual, of litigation and actually uncovered other breaches that had not been previously documented. The cost of resolution was far greater than the whole asset value of the company.

As per our press release of Friday, September 5, 2008, the company has sought and obtained protection from its creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). The CCAA is a Canadian federal Act that gives financially troubled corporations the opportunity to restructure their affairs through a formal plan of arrangement. This process was begun with a formal application to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador where HVRC applied for protection under the CCAA. The court has issued an Order giving HVRC 30 days of protection from its creditors to allow for the preparation of the plan of arrangement. Once the plan has been prepared, the Company will update the market. We did not make this decision lightly. The alternative was to apply for full receivership, and to wind up HVRC. We did not feel that this was in anyone’s interests. Under the terms of the CCAA as previously described, we are able to submit to the court appointed monitor, a plan showing how we may move forward and finally deliver a sustainable resort that is financially stable, which we fully intend to do. Within this process, each of you will have a formal opportunity to submit any claims you feel that you may have to the court appointed Monitor. Ernst & Young Inc. have been appointed as our Monitor.

This action will result in immediate and tangible changes to the operation of the resort. In the coming days the resort will wind down and close the following onsite operations and services: the accommodations, food and beverage, activities and golf. Strawberry Hill will also be closing its rental pool and manor house operations. Flights from Gatwick to Deer Lake will continue as per the scheduled dates on September 11 and 18. The company is presently working hard, as are other local business organizations, all in consultation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, to find a solution to continue the intended winter flight series. At this time we are unable to confirm whether the winter series flights will go ahead. Once a formal determination is made, we shall advise accordingly.

You will undoubtedly have many questions and we will do our best to address them over the coming days. We have formed a team of employees that will address your issues and concerns and each of you will be given a contact name with whom you can communicate directly at the resort. Also, later today, a “Question and Answer” package will be provided along with information regarding the CCAA process.

During the past few days, the company as its first priority engaged in securing and protecting your assets on the resort. At the time of writing, this process continues. As we take this step, we are mindful that it creates a situation that leaves many of you with uncertainty and concern. Please know, that your interests as owners remain a primary consideration as we develop our restructuring plan and move forward.


Derrick White
President, Newfound Canada

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Eating out - but not at Humber Valley Resort

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Friday afternoon at the Beach House on Humber Valley Resort, and the drinks store looks worryingly low in stock. Two bottles of red and just four of white - and no "Black Horse"!

Then, on Saturday night, Humber Valley Resort's Beach House pub/restaurant Sullys closed for the last time (as we know it today). At the same time Strawberry Hill's restaurant & bar were also closed.

These closures are not a huge surprise, and in a previous announcement the Beach House had been scheduled to close on the 19th Sep. However that doesn't reduce the sadness, nor impact of the closures. As everyone who has eaten at the Beach House knows, the vast majority of the staff have always been so passionate about where they work - and it's them that made the place, certainly not the food! The exception on that note was clearly Strawberry Hill, where Greg turned out excellent Fine Dining food and again everyone there made the place extra special.

For those on resort for the next two weeks, extra trips to Dominion are required!

Alternatively we took Tanya's advice when she told us to try my brothers place in Corner Brook up near the Comfort Inn hotel. My brothers place, turns out to be "My Brothers Place" a strangely well hidden restaurant within a very average looking Mamateek Motel. However managing to find the motel, and walking through the lobby (that felt like the waiting room for an old peoples rest home) ... we found the restaurant - and the view.

That has to be the best view across Corner Brook - unless you know better?

We're - Are You?

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Some HVR answers - and the start of a plan!

Today's press release from Newfound NV (NFLD) announced that they have filed for "protection from the creditors" for Humber Valley Resort Corporation (HVRC). This provides at least a 30 day period for the company to submit a plan for the future. Ernst & Young have been appointed to work on the plan, and there has been consultation with provisional government.

It seems that this outcome is a positive move in a poor situation. All stakeholders have known for while that change is required. Now all involved in Humber Valley Resort (direct & indirect) have a breathing space, to plan for the viable future.

We're hoping to meet some key individuals over the next few days, and blog accordingly.


Following is today's press release from Newfound NV ...

Humber Valley Resort Corporation (“HVRC”) Press Release
Friday, Sept 5, 2008 14:30 GMT.

Humber Valley Resort (“HVRC”) has today been granted protection against creditors, in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”). This follows a review of HVRC’s financial position and particularly its various contractual commitments. The conclusion of the review was that HVRC, under its current structure and with its current commitments, is not financially viable.

As a result, the company filed for protection after carefully considering all options, including sending the company into receivership. After consulting with outside advisors, the company felt that all stakeholders, including chalet owners, investors/shareholders, HVRC employees, the surrounding communities and creditors would ultimately be best served by the proceedings and protections offered under CCAA.

The application was filed jointly as a plan of compromise or arrangement for HVRC, so as to include Newfoundland Travel and Tourism Corporation, Humber Valley Construction Limited and Humber Valley Interiors Limited, those affiliated companies that collectively comprise the Resort.

HVRC views the potential of this arrangement with its creditors, under the protections provided by CCAA, to be the most appropriate, fair and reasonable way to move forward with its plans to continue doing business. “HVRC is primarily concerned with protecting the interests of all stakeholders,” stated Derrick White, President of Newfound Canada, parent corporation of the affiliated companies, “and we believe CCAA provides us with the very best opportunity to work together with interested parties for the ongoing benefit of all.

CCAA allows for a 30-day period during which HVRC will produce and present a plan to creditors regarding the reorganization of the Resort. HVRC sees this as a viable alternative to bankruptcy. “The company has been engaged in detailed consultation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador throughout its decision making process. It continues to see the resort as an asset to Newfoundland and Labrador, and consideration of those western Newfoundland communities that have served us well over the years will be at the forefront of the company’s mind,” said White.

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HVR Update

The whole of the Humber Valley/Corner Brook area is awash with rumours ... The 1pm HVR staff meeting is postponed - everyone waiting for news.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Update: Short Term Reprieve

Just a quick update ... A large number of phone calls and total confusion between the various entities involved, resulted at 10:30am today in a short term reprieve, and confirmation from a high level, the last two weeks charter flights are to go ahead.

Next report - from on site!

We're still - Are you?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

No flights! Tourism impact?

Tomorrow's Humber Valley Resort (HVR) charter flight from Gatwick to Deer Lake airport is apparently to be the last for the summer season, two weeks earlier than planned. Holiday makers due to fly from the UK to Newfoundland are being rung at home to be told that if they take the flight, it is "unlikely that there will be a flight back on the 11th or the 18th".

There are lots of rumours and stories flying around Corner Brook today ... hopefully most are mis-placed!

Whatever ... for various reasons the summer season has been a poor one for Western Newfoundland, the businesses involved in tourism, and all the jobs that are connected directly, and indirectly to it.

It's easy to under value the benefit of international tourism across the area.

The tourism industry doesn't want "subsidised flights". It simply needs the "availability" of flights and routes. What value could tourism be to Western Newfoundland? With provincial marketing, more integrated infrastructure for tourism, and above all full flights, the benefits could be growing businesses, new and more secure jobs, increased provincial HST spend, and a new economy for the Island ... As the mill slowly closes down, and more and more people move (for job reasons) to Western Canada - here is one industry that has true prospects, and with a local benefit - but it needs to be supported and taken seriously at all levels ... Will it?

And guess what ... ... Are you?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Confusion, rumours & lack of communication

Confusion, rumours & lack of communication ... all adding to the Humber Valley Resort current problems!!

This Thursday's Charter flight "might" be the last for the season - meaning that the last two flights (11th & 18th) might be cancelled. What happens to those who fly out (58+) on Thursday (4th) flight? And others that are on the resort already (currently 150+), some of whom are planning to return during the last two weeks? If you ring now to book ... they'll only sell you a single ticket, (but not return).

No official answer on what is happening, nor why.

Oh, and (ahead of original plan) the Activties Centre closed today! "Last Sunday Brunch" was last Sunday ... Strawberry Hill Resort (which had previously been for sale) seems to be becoming a central feature of the plan (rather than the Club house) ... and there's a rumoured key announcement later this week!

PS Searching for alternative routes out of Newfoundland should we buy a "single charter ticket" ... the flights out of Halifax appear almost 100% full throughout September (due to the collapse of FlyZoom airline) ... there are very few options, actually, none worth considering!

Reinforcing the large issue for international tourism in Newfoundland - and the reasons behind the Humber Direct Air Group

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We want to be - but its hard.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Another blow for tourism in Western Newfoundland

For those from the UK the main alternative to the Gatwick-Deer Lake charter flights has always been to Zoom Airlines flights into Halifax from Gatwick, Manchester & Glasgow.
Unfortunately the airline suspended all operations last night (28th Aug 08), grounding all planes and laying off 600 staff. The announcement was forced when one of its creditors detained a plane from taking off, forcing the passengers off the plane!

This is bad news for everyone directly involved - but also it's extremely bad news for tourism on the Canadian Atlantic coast including Western Newfoundland. With the number of international airline routes in the area shrinking, I wonder what the ongoing future impacts are on the local economies? And jobs?

Some seem to think that the only tourists on Western Newfoundland are uber rich Humber Valley Resort chalet owners. They forget that actually the resort itself attracts (non owner) holidaymakers, who return home and promote the area to others ... and as local infrastructure and tourism developments, more and more businesses and resulting jobs will be created - and they in turn will have knock on effect to other business and jobs etc.

Tourism is an industry that Newfoundland is just really finding out about. The value of tourism is yet to be fully understood. The next big challenge is the issue of accessibility - and flights!

Local business group Humber Direct-Air (HDA) is working to try to secure a UK-Deer Lake route. More on HDA soon.

Links: Halifax Airport International routes - Zoom Airlines announcement - BBC on Zoom - Blog: Timing is Critical - Blog: Humber Direct-Air - Zoom video

We're ... Are you?

Friday, August 22, 2008

UK-Deer Lake flights - HUMBER DIRECT-AIR

There is growing activity in Western Newfoundland regarding the need to ensure continuation of direct flights to Deer Lake from the UK (as well new ones from other international hotspots). A group of concerned business people have been meeting in Corner Brook over the last six months, and has now formally launched as "Humber Direct-Air". Those interested has now expanded to a wider circle of business stakeholders, noteable tourism managers, and key politicians.

This is a very positive move, and should be supported wherever possible. I for one look forward to telling you more about their progress. The Humber Direct-Air full press release is below.

Read my previous "Timing is critical" blog ...
Western Star report on Humber Direct-Air
We're all ... Are you?

Full Press Release:
Since it’s inception, the Humber Valley Resort has contributed economically to this area in many positive ways. Retailers, tourism operators, restaurateurs, those involved in the building trade, property developers, just to name a few, have seen significant increases in business due to the influx of people from overseas. The spin-off has seen new developments, additional tourism infrastructure, and many new jobs associated with all of this. The direct and/or indirect economic impact, should it be measured, would amount to millions of additional dollars injected into the local economy.

Humber Valley Resort’s success in bringing a direct air connection from the UK to Deer Lake has been an integral part of the overall impact. Western Newfoundland was now just 4-5 hours from one of the largest economies of the world, and the Humber Valley, with all its amenities, became competitive with other world-class destinations. Without this 4-5 hour direct flight, the commute time was considerable longer, thereby reducing our demand as a destination significantly.

As a result of this, a number of business stakeholders have been meeting for the past 10 months to ensure the continuation of the direct flight from the United Kingdom to Deer Lake. To date, the Resort has been subsidizing the cost of this flight, and the stakeholders needed to prepare itself for the eventuality of it been discontinued. The group, informally named “Humber Direct-Air” has been meeting with officials from the Humber Valley Resort, other stakeholder groups and representatives from various federal and provincial government departments to work together to maintain this vital link. The group’s mandate is very specific and very clear, that due to the major economic impact the cancellation of the flight will have on the Humber Valley, that stakeholders will work together with the Resort and others to continue with the direct-air flight.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7:00PM Wednesday (27th Aug 08) evening at the Glynmill Inn, and any person who feels they may be affected by the discontinuation of this flight is welcome to attend.

We're all ... Are you?