Sunapee Lease Investigated
calls for public meeting amid concerns over Mount Sunapee ski lease
By DAVID BROOKS
Wednesday, June 07, 2017
After bribery schemes in Africa led the U.S.
government to fine the new operator of Mount Sunapee Resort $412 million last
year – one of the biggest penalties ever issued under the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act – the New Hampshire attorney general wants to hold a public
information meeting about plans for the resort.
The resort is part of Mount Sunapee State
Park, but ski operations are run by private companies under a lease. That lease
was sold recently by its previous owner, Florida-based real estate investment
trust CNL, to New York hedge fund Och-Ziff. The sale was part of a reported
$830 million deal involving a number of other ski areas, including Okemo in
Vermont and Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine.
News about the purchase circulated late last
fall, but the sale didn’t trigger a notification clause in the lease and the
state was not officially notified of it until March, Attorney General Gordon
MacDonald said Wednesday.
No plans have been announced to change the
operations of the ski area, which has thrived in recent years, according to
MacDonald and statements from the Department of Resources and Economic
But Och-Ziff’s recent history has raised
questions, leading to a push by the AG’s office and DRED to hold a public
“The company is under a compliance agreement
with the federal government,” MacDonald said. “The suggestion is to get the
compliance monitor up here and engage the company directly.”
New Hampshire has owned Mount Sunapee State
Park for close to a century, and development on the ski area began in the 1950s
when the sport was starting to bloom. In 1998, the state leased management and
operations to the owner of the Okemo resort. In 2008 the lease was sold to a
subsidiary of the CNL trust, which hired the Okemo group, now called The
Sunapee Difference, to operate it.
The state lease was updated in 2016 and runs
at least through 2028.
Under the lease, the state must be notified
and give its approval if a change is made in the management group – that is, if
The Sunapee Difference no longer operated the ski area. But the lease does not
give the state a say if ownership of the lease changes hands, as has happened.
According to a memo from MacDonald and Jeffrey
Rose, commissioner of DRED, the state began to receive questions in March about
Och-Ziff, the new owner of the lease.
Och-Ziff is a sizable hedge fund, with a
reported $39 billion in assets under its management. It was founded in 1994.
According to news reports, the company became
embroiled in a major bribery scandal in several African nations, including
Chad, Niger, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Libya, to help
win mining rights. Och-Ziff subsidiary OZ Africa Management GP LLC pleaded
guilty in September to a criminal case in federal court in New York City.
News reports said Och-Ziff CEO Daniel Och
agreed to pay nearly $2.2 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission
charges that he caused the violations, while the company will pay $199 million
to the SEC to settle civil charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices
Act and pay a criminal penalty of $213 million.
Under the agreement with the U.S. Department
of Justice, the company agreed to a federal “compliance monitor” to oversee its
operations for three years.
No schedule has been set for any public
meeting concerning Mount Sunapee Resort.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)