Clock ticks on Vail Resorts, Hotham and Falls Creek rumours

The ski in ski out village at Falls Creek. Photo by Chris Hocking.

The skinternet (see what we did there) went into a mild frenzy on Thursday when the Australian Financial Review announced online at 11.30pm that Vail Resorts would be buying Victoria’s Falls Creek and Hotham resorts for $120 million. 

Meanwhile ski and snow websites in the USA with their Google Alerts set to ‘Vail’ took it as a done deal and reported ‘the sale’ immediately online overnight. By the time we woke for Friday morning flat whites and smashed avo most Americans (and now Aussies) took the internet reports as fact, skimming the details and just ingesting the show stopping headlines like Iced Vovo toppings (it’s nothing without the wheat biscuit).

Trouble is. It’s not really fact. Not yet, anyway. The Australian Financial Review didn’t reveal their source for the report (they legally don’t have to) and Vail Resorts has not released a statement (legally they have to). 

As a publicly listed company Vail Resorts is obliged to file a Form 8-K with the United States Security and Exchanges Commission revealing any acquisitions within 4 business days of signing. A press statement is prepared at the same time, as the Form 8-K is made public on the SEC filings website. 

So far it’s been 56 hours since the Australian Financial Review pressed publish online and no press release has been released. But if they signed on Friday then they have until Thursday (Christmas Day is a public holiday) to file the Form 8-K. If they signed before Friday, then they have even less time.

That is if the amateur hour Aussie leakage has not had Vail running in the opposite direction. Though, if the acquisition speculation is true, then a press release will be imminent and then ‘the mole’ can be shown the door like Karl on his honeymoon.

Vail takes confidentiality seriously, very seriously. You have to when you have share holders to report to, especially with acquisitions and the dangers of insider trading. They stick to protocol and process and expect their employees and future employees to do the same. 

But it’s no secret that acquisition rumours run rife with many making the media – Netflix has long been rumoured to be an Apple acquisition opportunity, Slack to be acquired by Amazon, SnowsBest to be bought by TEN Daily – I made that last bit up, we’re really also selling to Vail.  

But the biggest snow news in recent years, Vail’s purchase of Whistler, was not leaked prior to any media, not a whisper. The sale of Park City to Vail was not leaked either. 

Perisher’s sale was a total curve ball for everyone in the Australian industry. Even Vail’s Australian PR agency had no clue why they were asked to be in their office at 5.00am, the morning of the announcement. The only people aware of these style of acquisitions are those in the top level need to know basis and most likely NDAs were signed. 

Speculation just reveals industry hopes and fears and everyone loves snow gossip, right? We’ve all talked about which Australian resort would be snapped up by Alterra Mountain Company or which one bought by Vail and those pesky rumours about the Smiggins Olympics just won’t go away.

Australia is a coveted international market for North America, Japan and New Zealand, we are hot property for those wanting to lure us to their overseas mountains and purchasing a down under ski resort will help funnel us there. 

We received numerous calls and texts all last week from sources we could not substantiate, so we revealed nothing but we had our ear to the ground because we love big industry news and we love our phone running hot because we can’t remember our last date night. Then the Australian Financial Review printed and we were obliged to address it because it’s the AFR, people, not the Daily Mail.

But the talk that an announcement would happen on Friday didn’t eventuate. If they wait to announce Monday USA time, then it’s Christmas Day our time, a pretty poor news day. Then with those Form 8-K time restrictions it would need to be announced by, oh who am I kidding, we don’t even know if there is an acquisition document, if that document is even signed, when it was signed and why Karl has traded in his Blundstones for Yeezy sneakers with different colored laces? 

One thing we can tell you 100% for sure is if it’s going to happen, it will happen. If not, then not. 

So, you can all go back to chewing on turkey legs and telling Dad jokes around the tree for now.

You’ll be the first to know, when we know, or not.

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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