A West Virginia businessman, who made millions in farming and coal, is the new owner of the famed Greenbrier Resort.
The stunning announcement came today from The Greenbrier that Jim Justice has purchased the financially-troubled resort.
The purchase price was not disclosed. The purchase includes 80 percent of The Greenbrier Sporting Club which is an upscale housing development.
“I’m very excited to become part of one of America’s finest traditions,” Justice was quoted as saying in new release from the Greenbrier.
(Justice will be a guest Friday at 10:06 on Metronews Talkline)
The announcement is a stunning development in the unfolding story of the luxurious resort.
Earlier this year, the Greenbrier filed for bankruptcy after losing $35 million last year. Owner CXS announced at the same time that it had entered into an agreement with the Marriott Corporation, creating an opportunity for the worldwide hotel chain to buy the resort.
Last week, the labor unions representing most of the 1,400 hundred workers at the Greenbrier County resort announced they had reached new labor agreements. The unions and CSX had been trying unsuccessfully for months to get new contracts.
The Greenbrier is a significant landmark in West Virginia as well as one of the most well-known luxury resorts in the world. However, the last few years have been rough for the resort.
Competing resorts offering more amenities have pulled business away from the Greenbrier as the resort’s costs have risen. Labor problems combined with the downturn in the economy also hurt.
Justice said he wants to look to the future.
“Our near-term goal is to give The Greenbrier a fresh start,” Justice said. Even though the current economy is taking its toll on the resort, we are going to take a long-term view by focusing on reclaiming our five-star status and making the right investments for future growth.”
CSX CEO Michael Ward called the surprise development a “great result.”
“While this is an entirely different kind of transaction than expected,” Ward said, “this is a great result for The Greenbrier, its employees, the community, and CSX.
Justice sent a letter to Greenbrier employees introducing himself and detailing his plans, including gambling.
“As part of our long-term growth plans, I think we should look seriously at the potential for ‘tasteful’ gaming at The Greenbrier,” Justice said. “It is certainly not our panacea, but done correctly it could add to our allure.”
Voters last election approved gambling at the Greenbrier and the legislature approved a bill this last session allowing the resort to keep a larger share of the profits than originally designed, but the same percentage as the race tracks.
Justice is a long-time West Virginia businessman who made millions in agriculture and coal.
The Raleigh County native and Marshall graduate joined the family business in 1976, the started Bluestone Farms the following year. That enterprise grew to include 50,000 acres in four states.
His business empire expanded even more when he took over Bluestone Industries and Bluestone Coal Corporation after the death of his father in 1993. A profile released by The Greenbrier said “Throughout the late 1990’s, Jim focused Bluestone on a massive growth program acquiring tens of thousands of acres of quality coal reserves along with production skyrocketing.”
Justice is also an avid sports fan; he coaches the girl’s high school basketball team at Greenbrier East.