Intrawest moving headquarters to Colorado 

News confirmed to staff in a memo from CEO Bill Jensen

After 34 years in British Columbia, Intrawest is pulling up stakes and moving its headquarters from Vancouver to Greater Denver, Colorado by the end of 2011.

The move was publicized on Tuesday when the Vancouver Sun obtained a leaked memo to staff from Chief Operating Officer Bill Jensen.

Intrawest confirmed the memo in an email on Wednesday.

As reported by the Sun in the memo Jensen called it a logical step for the company: "With shared services and Intrawest's two largest resorts already in Colorado, this relocation is the logical next step to the continued growth of Intrawest, and is consistent with the company's long-term business strategy," states the memo.

Intrawest, which is now owned by Fortress Investments, has been slowly divesting itself of properties in B.C.

In January 2010 the cash-strapped company sold its stake in Panorama Mountain Resort to a group of local investors.

In November, Whistler Blackcomb was launched as a separate company in an initial public offering, with Intrawest owning a 24 per cent minority stake in the publicly traded company.

In December 2010, the company announced that it had sold Kadenwood, one of its remaining real estate developments in Whistler, to Ecoasis.

On the other hand, Intrawest ULC still operates two large-scale resorts in Colorado, Winter Park and Steamboat. Other resorts owned or partially owned by the company include Blue Mountain in Ontario, Tremblant in Quebec, Snowshoe in West Virginia and Stratton in Vermont.

The Intrawest office in Vancouver has been downsizing in recent years since their acquisition by Fortress, and a spokesperson for the Vancouver Economic Development Association told the Sun that the total staff at headquarters is now between 20 and 25 employees. It's unknown how many of those staff members will be going to Colorado, although the memo suggested that all of the senior managers would be making the move.

According to Timothy Renshaw, editor of Business In Vancouver magazine, the move is understandable in the circumstances but bad for Vancouver as a whole.

"From their business point of view it does make sense, but from the larger business perspective it points to the issue of maintaining those Grade A offices and centres here in B.C. and Metro Vancouver," he said, noting that Intrawest was a B.C. success story until recently. "(Intrawest) has been in transition for quite a while, so it's not entirely surprising."

Renshaw said there is a trend in B.C. of head offices moving elsewhere.

"A lot of our concern revolves around the loss of head offices," he said. "(Companies) get to a certain point here and they disappear, and those are really big losses for the city and for B.C., because head offices bring really good jobs here and attract other head offices. It's one thing Metro Vancouver has a real issue with because of the higher cost of living here, and because the relative compensation can't compete with bigger places in the U.S."


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