Intrawest Lays Off 200 in Cost-Saving Effort

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SAM Magazine-Vancouver, B.C., Oct. 20, 2006-Intrawest laid off 200 full-time employees, primarily managers, across its several divisions and resorts earlier this week as part of an effort to improve its bottom-line performance in the coming year. The move was made the day before Intrawest shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the company's sale to Fortress Investment Group (see earlier story), clearing the way for a closing as early as next week.

The layoffs were concentrated in the summer golf resort of Sandestin (50 employees) and the real estate division, Intrawest's Hugh Smythe told SAM. Smythe, the president and COO of the leisure and travel group, said here were 48 layoffs from among the staffs of the winter resorts, including 10 at Tremblant, several at Whistler-Blackcomb, and seven at Snowshoe, W.V.

Smythe also told SAM that the timing was coincidental and for the most part unrelated to the Fortress sale. The exceptions, he said, were six employees who had been working on Intrawest's China initiative, which Fortress does not plan to pursue.

The layoffs grew out of the dozens of meetings Intrawest executives have had with potential investors over the past six months, Smythe explained. These meetings sharpened Intrawest's awareness of its internal weaknesses and performance against industry benchmarks.

The layoffs are just part of several steps Intrawest has taken to cut costs and build a cushion against a slight softening of the resort real estate market and the usual weather uncertainties, Smythe said. Those steps included cuts to overhead, such as travel budgets, and elimination of some unfilled positions. "This is the sort of thing you have to do from time to time," he added.

While he emphasized that the scale of the layoffs is small-Intrawest has between 5,000 and 6,000 employees-Smythe said that any layoffs are painful for all those involved. Those sentiments were echoed by Snowshoe spokeswoman Andrea Smith, who told the Charleston Daily Mail, "These were very valued employees that did a great job for the company. I know everyone is very sad to see them go."

Added Snowshoe GM Bill Rock, "Everyone that was impacted was given the opportunity to apply for other jobs at Snowshoe. We expect that more than half will rejoin the company in a different capacity."