West Virginia businessman Jim Justice recently acquired The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. and 80% of The Greenbrier Sporting Club through a stock purchase agreement in which CSX Corp., The Greenbrier’s previous owner, transferred 100% ownership of its stock in The Greenbrier Resort and Club Management Co. (The Greenbrier Hotel Corp.’s holding company), to Justice’s company, the Justice Family Group LLC.
The Wall Street Journal reported the transaction cost to be $20 million.
Justice has also filed a request to seek dismissal of The Greenbrier Hotel Corp.’s Chapter 11 proceedings in federal bankruptcy court in Richmond, Va.
According to Hotels magazine, the sale of the company to the Justice Family Group LLC in theory negates an asset purchase agreement that The Greenbrier Hotel Corp. had reached in March—the same month as the bankruptcy filing—with Marriott Hotel Services Inc. That transaction was to be subject to a court-supervised auction process in which other qualified purchasers would have an opportunity to bid on the resort.
Part of Justice’s bankruptcy dismissal filing was a request that any order dismissing the bankruptcy also deem the Marriott asset purchase agreement to be terminated, given that certain requirements are met (which include the return of a Marriott deposit and the payment to Marriott of a “break-up fee and expense reimbursement”).
Representatives of Marriott International, meanwhile, have expressed surprise about the resort’s sale to Justice, and have made statements reaffirming the company’s intent to continue to pursue its purchase of The Greenbrier.
According to Hotels, Justice’s stated near-term goal is to “give The Greenbrier a fresh start”—last year the resort lost $35 million—while also aiming to “take a long-term view by focusing on reclaiming our 5-star status and making the right investments for future growth.” (Under the stock purchase agreement, Justice agreed to continue operating The Greenbrier for at least two years at standards consistent with maintaining a AAA 5-diamond rating)
To that end, since Justice’s purchase, the resort has been calling back its hundreds of furloughed employees. “We’re going to be aggressive and we will return this resort to its rightful place as the leader in the luxury hospitality industry,” Justice says. “To do that, we need all of our team members here and ready to serve our guests.”
Justice also told the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette that he plans to build a casino at The Greenbrier, now that legislation has been passed and signed to regulate gambling at the resort. By June, Justice said, he expects to have an architectural drawing of the casino, which would cost between $15 million and $20 million to build, and could be completed by the end of the year. The resort would offer “tasteful gaming, but in an aggressive way,” he said.
The Justice family fortune was primarily built through coal and farming interests. Its West Virginia coal operations, Bluestone Industries, Inc., was recently sold to a Russian steel company for $436 million. Other interests include a John Deere farm equipment dealership and two commercial turf farms. Jim Justice developed Stoney Brook Plantation, a 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve in West Virginia’s Monroe County, and in 2000 he purchased the Saddlebred Golf Club and Community in Beckley, W. Va., which has been renamed The Brier Patch Golf Links.
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