Monday, March 30, 2009

Deer Lake INTERNATIONAL airport !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At last !!!! Deer Lake Airport is declared as an international airport. Shame it didn't happen when British airways was looking for an airport to land prior to going on to New York (direct from City Airport).

Anyway ... its great news - and we all hope that the airport and its management can attract the international traffic the area desperately needs!

Lets ALL hope this will make the difference!!!

Western Star release:

The Deer Lake Regional Airport now holds Airport of Entry status.

The pronouncement of the status, along with $670,000 in new federal funding for the “enhancement of border services” at the airport, was made this morning at Deer Lake Regional Airport’s international arrivals lounge.

The news was delivered by Senator Fabian Manning on behalf of federal Minister of Public Safety, Peter Van Loan.

The immediate impact of the announcement, according to airport manager Jamie Schwartz, will be an increase in the airport’s ability to market itself for international flights.

“It gives us the opportunity to go out and pursue other new routes and other international traffic,” said Schwartz.

For more details, see Tuesday's Western Star.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

HVR Assets get broken up - Strawberry Hill sold!!

The assets of Humber Valley Resort have been up for sale by tender for the last few weeks, and the resulting bids have now been evaluated by the court Trustees Ernst & Young.

Known bidders were the resorts original founder Brian Dobbin, and a chalet owners consortium led by Mike Ward- both bidding for the whole resort, and each with differing business plans. Dobbin's was associated with being granted further crown land and so based on selling more land and chalets to new owners, whilst Ward's Team were driven by developing the exisiting resort and attracting a big name brand to build a hotel to act as the central piece to the resort and drive new marketing efforts.

Well, the news is that neither have won, and the assets are being broken up!

Strawberry Hill and the Beach House are both being sold (to different purchasers).

Not sure what happens to the other remaining assets, particularly the golf course and the club house. However importantly there are other assets that can't be forgotten, including the water supply system, the resort roads, utilities, office block, and the bridge etc. These are all key to the resorts future, let alone its future success. Add to that the fact that the golf course will loose money for the next few years, until there are sufficent resort visitors (local and international) to make it pay.

The business plans for any tenderer will need to handle all these asset liabilities, whilst also producing enough income to make a successful business - and now it has to do it without two of the key assets that would have been successful at an early stage!

In making the decision to split up the assets, what is the motivation of the Trustee?

It's an easy answer - simply to recover some cash as quickly as possible.

Does the Trustee have any compulsion to ensure at least it leaves the resort and its chalets as a working concern? No, not at all - the Trustee is quite within its rights, in fact within its instructions to get maximum monies and then close the case. In fact one quote I've heard is, if (for example) the water supply service is not sold - it will simply be turned off!!

But where does that leave the resort, and those that are passionate about it? No-one can be really sure at this stage. But for sure, as the assets get split up, the chances for a successful future deminish.

The future is uncertain, and there is a lot for everyone to think about - but now it doesn't include Strawberry Hill nor the Beach House!

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ARTICLE: Group has bid for resort assets

Article on Western Star (Corner Brook) by Gary Kean

A management group led by a chalet owner has confirmed it has made a bid to buy Humber Valley Resort’s assets.

The deadline for the tender call for the bankrupt resort’s properties — including the golf course, restaurants, land and other holdings — closed Friday, and the resort’s trustee in bankruptcy now has until March 16 to decide what to do with the bids. The trustee, Ernst and Young, won’t say how many bids have been received, but a bid has been made by a group led by Brian Dobbin, the man who founded the resort that went into bankruptcy in December.

At least one other bid has also been made. A management group that includes Mike Ward and some other owners, in a prepared statement to The Western Star Tuesday, said its plan recognizes the “misguided focus” and the problems of the previous management teams, and knows what is needed to turn the resort around.

Previous plan failed

The previous failed business model of selling land at high prices, said Ward, clearly hasn’t worked and any plan with that as its short-term model will also fail. Ward said an operation which welcomes incorporating local residents is crucial. That would include less expensive green fees and special discounts for locals on the resort’s golf course, he said.

Even in the early days of his investment, Ward said he took exception to the fact there was no hotel in the resort’s plans, noting that is a common, central element to almost any other resort he’s been to around the world. He even disclosed his group has met with a major hotel chain he expects will set up shop at the resort if his group’s bid is successful.

Last fall, hotel chain Marriott told The Western Star it was “interested” in the Humber Valley, but would not confirm if anything was in the works.

Dobbin’s original plan included expanding far beyond the resort’s current footprint with more chalets and another 18-hole golf course. In a letter to the owners last week, Dobbin said the provincial government is still willing to discuss leasing that expansion land back to the successful bidder.

The expansion property was taken back by the province before the resort went bankrupt because the resort had not paid the annual rental fee on the land and had also not lived up to other conditions stipulated in the lease.

The owners’ group, however, plans to take things much slower.

“Building more properties in the expansion land is clearly not a focus in the short term, however there are several plots of land on the edges of the development which have no access,” said Ward. “Clearly, something would have to be done to bring them services and accessibility.”

When asked to comment on the situation at the resort, Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Clyde Jackman deferred to Justice Minister Tom Marshall, who represents the Humber East district where the resort is located.

Marshall would not comment on the specific bids, but did say the province was willing to enter negotiations with the successful bidder about the Crown lands the resort had wanted to expand into.

“People are entitled to apply for Crown land, but that’s not to say they would get that land,” said Marshall.

Ward did not want to comment about any others bidding for the resort’s assets, but did say the majority of chalet owners do not want those responsible for Humber Valley Resort’s downfall to be involved again.

“Their credibility has been ruined and the history will make it hard for them to be trusted again,” he said. “This would be a disaster and I’m not sure where it would lead — they should not be allowed to bid without an investigation into the dealings at the resort. Sometimes you have to just look at the bigger picture and do what is best for the resort and the local community. This might mean withdrawing from the process and wishing another bid the best of success — it takes somebody who is magnanimous to do this.”

Ward said the previous management teams don’t seem to accept responsibility for the consequences of the resort’s downfall. The owners left in the wake of the bankruptcy, he added, and now want to control their own destiny when it comes to the operation’s future.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Owners consortium bid to buy HVR assets ...

The following "bid news summary" is from the HVR bid consortium led by Mike Ward:

On Friday 6th March a bid was submitted by Mike Ward and his team of Owners at Humber Valley with a view to buying the resort assets and running a successful commercial business.

The plan recognises the problems of the previous management teams and misguided focus, and what is needed to turn the resort around. The previous failed business model of selling land at high prices clearly hasn't worked and any plan with this as the short term model will fail.

The resort needs to implement a successful operational model to bring in local people which in our view is absolutely key to the success of the resort. The golf course would be run by a professional golf course resort management team and would ensure that the green fees would not be at the previous high levels. The golf course is exceptional, won many awards, and we would want to ensure that local people benefit from this experience. We intend to encourage local golfers to play more on the course with special discounts for locals.

Many Owners felt the original HVR strategy was failed by the lack of a planned hotel operator for the resort in the early days. Many successful resorts around the world have the common theme of having a hotel at its centre, and it being the heartbeat to the resort. This would often include restaurants, fitness centre, swimming pool etc. This is key to the success of the resort and the team has already had positive meetings with a large professional chain and would expect to sign contracts with the group if successful with the bid.

When asked about building more properties on the expansion land Mike Ward explained that there were many properties on the original land that needed to be finished first, adding "Building more properties in the expansion land is clearly not a focus in the short term, however there are several plots of land on the edges of the development which have no access. Clearly something would have to be done to bring them services and accessibility"

Asked about the other bids on the table he preferred to focus on his bid which is clearly what is needed at the resort. A professional hotel chain, potentially with a conference centre and a golf course operator is needed to give people the experience so they want to come back again and again.

Asked about other people who have been involved in the failure of the resort coming back he said "Their credibility has been publicly ruined, and the history will make it hard for them to be trusted again. This would be a disaster and I'm not sure where it would lead - they should not be allowed to bid without an investigation into the historic dealings at the resort, sometimes you have to just look at the bigger picture and do what is best for the resort and the local community. This might mean withdrawing from the process and wishing another bid the best of success - it takes somebody who is magnanimous to do this".

The vast majority of the owners would like the owners-led bid to succeed. In our opinion the owners feel strongly that they were badly let down by the previous management teams at HVR and now want to take control of their own destiny. The previous management teams do not seem to be accepting responsibility for the bankruptcy of the resort, and the severe financial consequences for both the owners and trade creditors.

Asked about his motive to get involved he said "it's a case of having too. I have several properties and numerous plots of land. If this resort fails then everything I've spent the last 30 years working for is lost". When making a decision to bid it was not a difficult one because he is so passionate about the people and the area. Asked if he could see himself living in the area the answer was "yes that was always the long term plan. It just seems it might happen quicker than planned"

Brian Dobbin announces his HVR bid to Owners

Brian Dobbin declared his bid for Humber Valley Resort assets late last week by emailing some HVR chalet owners.

One immediate comment from me, Brian refers in his letter to "anonymous blogs on the owner website". I'd just add FYI that we have over 400 owners, over 1,000 site emails between owners, 780 forum entries, across 199 subject titles - of which 1 (one!) was made anonymous simply to evaluate if having your name detered some owners from participating.

Anyway, read the letter below. Your comments are encouraged and welcome here, and on the Gary Kelly blog where there is a stream of previous comments!


Dear Humber Valley Resort property owner,

As you will have seen by Mike Ward's email, the tender for the purchase of the Humber Valley Resort assets is due. One falsehood spoils a hundred truths, so I am corresponding to let you know that I am leading a group to purchase the assets. As many of you may know, I began the resort and Strawberry Hill in the Valley over a decade ago.

The simple history of Humber Valley Resort is that I raised
approximately $15 M CDN in the late 90's in Asia and built the first access to
the land and started the first marketing efforts. We then sold over $60 M CDN of
land which was re-invested back into the resort, including over $20 M CDN in
construction losses from the home cost escalations as we built out the first 200
homes. I then sold the resort into a public company, which allowed for another
approximately $40 M CDN to be invested in the resort and its operations. This
included flights, tourism marketing, and paying the operating costs of
everyone's chalets for the first two years of the resort's operations.

The short story is that a lot more money went in than went out, and I do
not think my commitment to the future of tourism in Humber Valley should be
questioned, especially not on anonymous blogs on the owner website. I also
continue to own and use properties at the resort and am not trying to sell them.
I believe that the majority of owners bought their property to enjoy the resort
and surrounding area, as I do, and commiserate with those who bought for
property speculation and have not sold yet. Both parties are best served by a
continuation of the resort's growth as a destination.

I did not take a dividend at any time from the growth of HVR, reports of a pay-out were
unfortunately false. I do have 50 million Newfound shares that I can paper my
home with however. I left the public corporation in 2007 as I was tired of
fighting directors over control of the company and wanted to give those who
criticize the opportunity to take the lead. In the period since then I have
spent more time at Humber than I had in the previous five years. This time
reinforced why I love the place so much, and the fun that can be had here side
by side with spectacular nature and retreat.

We made the tourism operations profitable at Strawberry Hill Resort with a small dedicated team and little overhead. Humber Valley Resort grew into something that could not work. Some of the parts we were forced into - like picking up the flight cost five
years ago and continuing them when our first travel partner could not, and
having to market the destination because the provincial government would not.
What we ended up with was one company trying to do 15 jobs and doing them
not-so-well. The bankruptcy has caused all those pieces to fall on the ground,
and they are being picked up now by a number of different stakeholders and
interested parties.

The roads and water have been admirably dealt with by the owner association to date, but given the problem of enforcing cost recovery without legal right, the two local municipalities looking to take over their upgrade and maintenance makes the most sense. This is what is done at the Whistler and Mount Tremblant resorts in Canada. The maintenance and rental of Humber chalets is being serviced by at least a dozen smaller companies now, and this also is the norm in a resort town.

The government has come around a lot since the resort went into protection and then bankruptcy. The impact on the local economy has been noticeable and they are committed to participating more in the future. Being a third generation businessman in Newfoundland, I understand the politics here, and what is noticeably different now is the
province has been enjoying a budget surplus for the last while before the economic crisis and will do so again this year if the price of oil moves a reasonable amount. This is the first time in two generations that has happened and we believe the decision-makers in the provincial government are serious about investing in tourism growth here with us now. More direct flight access is being investigated and support of the local industry association and specific international marketing help for the Valley has been promised.

What is left in operations is the golf/clubhouse, the Beachhouse, and Strawberry Hill.
Our group intends to make all three separately owned and operated businesses,
co-operating together and offering different products. We will be bringing back
our best people who made you want to be here in the first place. We are also
bringing some new people in that will help attract new domestic markets for the
next years. We are now the best resort destination by far on this side of
Canada, and we will take advantage of that. We believe we can renew the magic
that Humber had it is really the people. I looked long and hard at branded
international operators and the reality is that they would be fish out of water
here at this stage of growth and would simply be too expensive to pay in any

We expect to lose some money in the next few years, but we can
make all three operations what Strawberry Hill was. We have the means to weather
the financial downturn for the next years and we will keep our overheads as low
as possible while creating three great experiences. Development talk for the
next years is premature. The only immediate concern is those who are on the
edges of the resort and the infrastructure that needs to be finished there. This
itself will take time to address as only new sales will drive it. We first need
to get the people who want out of the resort replaced with people who want in.
That will only happen with a good tourism experience, so we all agree what has
to happen. I believe we best know how to develop and sustain a great experience
at the resort.

I did not intend to communicate with the property owners as a whole until the bids were complete and the deal made, but I thought it time to let everyone know another side of what is happening. Should we be successful we shall contact again with more detail.

Brian Dobbin

We're ... Are you?

Jayne McGiven in talks for new development venture?

Jayne McGivern, who this week stepped down as chief executive of AIM‑listed leisure developer Newfound, is understood to be teaming up with Mikola Wilson to launch an opportunity fund.

McGivern, who was formerly head of Multiplex UK, relinquished her £500,000 pa role as chief executive of Newfound after plans to take the company private collapsed. She said: “Despite us getting shareholder approval for the privatisation, which would have helped us to raise cash, the move was scuppered at the last minute by our debt provider, [French hedge fund] Agilo, which demanded new lending terms that we find onerous.”

Sources said that McGivern was now in talks with Wilson, who runs niche investment firm Seven Dials Fund Management, to launch a new venture. It is expected to target high-yielding, income-producing assets with latent development potential. The new business is also being mooted to take over the day-to-day management of Newfound.

McGivern refused to comment on the new business.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Humber Valley Resort - Tenders stage closed!

So bids are in for Humber Valley Resort assets, and the Court Trustees (Ernst & Young) have on Friday 6th closed that stage of the tender process.

We now have to wait to hear who has bid and what conditions they have set against their offer. It's bound to be a complicated process and it will be interesting to see if any of the bidders have linked their offer to provincial confirmation of the availability of the expansion land to the east of HVR.

Two bidders we do now about for certain: Brian Dobbin wrote to Chalet Owners on Thursday 5th declaring his intention to bring back some of the personalities of the past and to rebuild HVR. Additionally a group of chalet owners have been working on their bid over the last two months. We'll hear more about both of these and any others bidders this week.

More news soon ...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

McGivern steps down as Newfound warns of risk of collapse

Jayne McGivern has resigned as CEO of AIM-listed resort developer, Newfound, as the company warned of a risk of collapse.

Article on Property Week website

Newfound said that McGivren’s departure was a result of it restructuring of its operations and management to cut costs, and warned that without new funds, it would ‘cease operations’.
It said this morning: ‘Unless new finance can be found for the group over the coming months, there is a risk that the Company will exhaust its cash resources, in which case it will need to cease operations.’

McGivern, a former Multiplex UK chief executive who took over last year, will remain on the board of the company but be replaced in the interim as CEO by Stephen Bentley, who is currently the finance director.

The day-to-day management of the company will be outsourced to a management company, and then Bentley will step down from his role as CEO and finance director to become a non-executive director.

Richard Foley has also resigned as a director, but will remain an employee of the group overseeing Newfound’s Caribbean projects.

John Morgan, acting chairman of Newfound, said: 'It is clear in the current financial market that property development companies are struggling to raise capital to fund projects. Newfound is no exception to this and the board has decided that the company needs to restructure its operations and executive management to reduce its expenditure.'



RNS Number : 1740O

3 March 2009
Newfound N.V.
('Newfound', the 'Company' or the 'Group')
Board Changes and Restructuring

Newfound N.V. (AIM: NFND) announces that Jayne McGivern has resigned as an Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Newfound NV with immediate effect. Ms. McGivern will however stay on the Board of the Company as a Non-Executive Director. Richard Foley has also resigned as a Director with immediate effect although he will remain an employee of the Group overseeing Newfound's Caribbean projects.

For an interim period, Stephen Bentley, who is the Finance Director, will also assume the role of Chief Executive Officer while the Board seeks to outsource the day to day management of the Group's activities with a management company or similar. Upon procurement of such a management contract, Mr. Bentley will step down as Finance Director and Chief Executive Officer and become a Non-Executive director.

John Morgan, Acting Chairman of Newfound NV, commented today:
'It is clear in the current financial market that property development companies are struggling to raise capital to fund projects. Newfound NV is no exception to this and the Board has decided that the company needs to restructure its operations and executive management to reduce its expenditure. As a result, Jayne McGivern moves to a non-executive role while Stephen Bentley will take over as CEO on a part-time basis whilst the Board looks to put in place a management contract.

Jayne will continue to have oversight of the plans for the Company's main assets in the Caribbean although, as a non-executive director, she will not work on the project day-to-day. I would like to thank Jayne for all her work during a very difficult period for the Company. She has achieved much in the last 6 months and I am delighted that we will retain her expertise on the Board.

I would also like to thank Richard Foley who has done sterling work on our Caribbean projects as the main planner behind the developments. Although Richard is leaving the Board, he will continue to oversee the Company's Caribbean projects.

Newfound remains a company with assets in the Caribbean that have real potential. I am pleased with the plans developed by the Company for those assets and with the progress made with the two projects. Nevertheless, it is a company with limited financial resources and the above board changes are designed to conserve those resources and allow it to maintain the priorities of continuing to service its debt, negotiating new finance and ensuring that the Company is well-placed when the development market recovers and credit becomes more readily available.

Unless new finance can be found for the Group over the coming months, there is a risk that the Company will exhaust its cash resources, in which case it will need to cease operations. The Board continues to evaluate the Company's financial options and will keep shareholders fully informed over the coming months.'

They might not be, but we're ... are you?