The Friends of Mount Sunapee and the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club are seeking a full and transparent review into Och-Ziff’s acquisition of the Mount Sunapee lease. In April 2017, Och-Ziff, a New York based hedge fund criminally sanctioned under the Foreign Corruptions Act, acquired the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park.
“We appeal to elected state officials to begin a complete and transparent review of this lease acquisition and all related documents. The people of New Hampshire, who are the rightful owners of the Mount Sunapee State Park, must be assured that our state park is in the hands worthy of the public’s trust,” said Steve Russell, the president of the Friends of Mount Sunapee.
Russell commented at the state-sponsored “public information session,” which attracted more than 100 people to the state park Tuesday evening.
Before the meeting, some people demonstrated their concerns about the state’s management of the park by holding signs that read: “Lease Violated,” “Mount Sunapee State Park, Endangered Species,” and “Where Is State Oversight?”
In attendance were state officials including Executive Councilors Andru Volinsky and Joseph Kenney, Commissioner Jeffrey Rose (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Associate AG Anne Edwards, and representatives from Och-Ziff, who tried to allay public concerns about Och-Ziff’s corporate practices.
However, many members of the audience appeared skeptical and unconvinced by the state’s assertions and corporate promises and left with questions unanswered about why the Och-Ziff transaction occurred without appropriate financial review and what impact it will have on maintenance and development of the park.
“The New Hampshire attorney general’s assertion that this transaction is not within the purview of state oversight contradicts language in the original 1998 Lease Agreement,” said Russell.
“Examining risk and financial security is essential to maintaining the public trust. It is standard practice in all state contracts. This contract involving the future of Mount Sunapee State Park is no exception,” he added.
The ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park now takes in 1035 acres of public land, forested and developed land in Newbury and Goshen.
Read related articles:
Questions Raised About Sunapee Resort Ownership – Associated Press via the Valley News, August 24, 2017) —
State officials, hedge fund address public concerns around Mount Sunapee lease – NHPR, August 23, 2017 —
Today the national watchdog group Public Citizen warned the State of New Hampshire about the failures of deferred prosecution agreements in regards to Och-Ziff, the new leaseholder at Mount Sunapee State Park.
Download/view the Public Citizen letter here: PCochziff (pdf 66kb)
The Department of Justice secured a criminal plea by Och-Ziff for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in September 2016. “Central to the criminal plea by Och-Ziff, the company entered into a three-year Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” according to Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen.
Public Citizen asserts that Deferred Prosecution Agreements “have proved to be inadequate enforcement and oversight mechanisms” and have not held corporate criminals appropriately accountable.
The letter to Commissioner Jeffrey Rose of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) comes one day before a state-sponsored “public information session” about the ski area lease, Och-Ziff, and future of Mount Sunapee. The meeting to address public concerns will be on Tuesday, August 22 at 6 pm at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury.
“The State of New Hampshire should not rely solely on the terms of the DOJ Deferred Prosecution Agreement as a primary instrument to ensure that Och-Ziff is a reputable steward of public resources,” wrote Slocum. “Rather it would be prudent for the State of New Hampshire to insist on additional measures to ensure that a corporate felon is an adequate custodian of the lease.”
In June 2017, the DNCR commissioner and N.H. attorney general revealed that Och-Ziff, a New York-based hedge fund, was the new leaseholder at Mount Sunapee. According to N.H. registry filings, Och-Ziff took over the ski area lease April 6, 2017.
In September 2016, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sanctioned Och-Ziff under the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, resulting in civil and criminal fines totaling $412 million.
At the time, Public Citizen reported, “Och-Ziff engaged in a massive bribery scheme in numerous African countries, over a period of years, with the direct involvement of high-level officials. It did not self-disclose its illegal activities and was slow to cooperate fully in the early stages of the government’s investigation.”
An enforcement officer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated, “Och-Ziff engaged in complicated, far-reaching schemes to get special access and secure significant deals and profits through corruption,” according to the New York Times (October 2016).
The ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park takes in approximately 1,135 acres (public land) in Newbury and Goshen, which includes ancient forest, exemplary natural communities, public hiking trails and recreational facilities and infrastructure. DNCR is the state agency responsible for managing N.H. state parks.
According to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), Division of Parks and Recreation, the “public informational session” pertains “to the lease holder of the Lease and Operating Agreement for Mount Sunapee State Park ski area.”
In June, state wide newspapers reported on Och-Ziff taking over the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee. The Concord Monitor reported:
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. — via Concord Monitor (June 7, 2017)
At the time, the Union Leader reported that Attorney General Gordon McDonald “said the deal between Och-Ziff [the new operator] and CNL was structured to avoid triggering the state’s right to intervene.”
Earlier in the year, Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) communicated to Commissioner Jeffrey Rose concerns about Och-Ziff taking over the lease. Rose oversees the agency responsible for management of New Hampshire’s state parks.
“In recognition of the State’s responsibilities in the oversight and management of Mount Sunapee State Park, we urge the State to seek a leaseholder that meets ethical and financial standards that inspire public confidence and trust,” FOMS wrote the commissioner.
Information Session at Mount Sunapee State Park
When: Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at 6 p.m.
Where: Mount Sunapee Resort’s Sunapee Lodge located at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury, NH.
See DNCR notice: Rose Mt Sunapee Public Info Session scheduled for 082217 (pdf 26kb)
The New Hampshire budget and Committee of Conference Report contain provisions that have received little notice: the immediate break-up of DRED, the Department of Resources and Economic Development. The split of DRED’s four divisions — economic development, parks and recreation, forests and lands, and travel and tourism — is effective July 1, 2017.
A new Department of Business and Economic Affairs will include economic development and travel and tourism.
A Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will now include the divisions of parks and recreation; forests and lands; libraries; arts; film and digital media; and historical resources, which shall also be known as the state historic preservation office.
Governor Chris Sununu sought, and legislators approved the split contained in the Committee of Conference Report (HB5 517) and appropriations (contained in HB 144).
If you can help the Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) with analysis and coverage of this change in oversight of our parks and cultural and historical resources, please contact us.
Download/view the Committee of Conference Report HB 517 Adopted 6-22-17 (pdf 886kb)
Download/view HB 144 Adopted 6-22-17 (pdf 1.7MB)
The Friends of Mount Sunapee continues to gather and make available via its website information about the sale of the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park to the criminally sanctioned hedge fund Och-Ziff. The ownership change and a $251 million Leasehold Mortgage, which now encumbers the state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee, occurred in April without review by the Executive Council.
The FOMS library of news articles and registry filings now include the following documents, all dated April 6, 2017: a Quit Claim Deed; $251 Leasehold Mortgage; and Subordination, Non-Disturbance, and Attornment Agreement.
See related articles and industry press releases.
See related Lessor Estoppel and AG/DRED Memo
Responsibilities of the Executive Council include to approve contracts with a value greater than $25,000 and to assure “all major executive branch business is conducted in public with the press present.”
Public comment on the Annual Operating Plan 2017-18 for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park can be submitted by June 19, 2017, to the Dept. of Resources and Economic Development, the agency that oversees NH’s state parks. Continue Reading →
The Union Leader reports: “Sunapee’s new leaseholder fined millions in bribery case” and “… the deal between Och-Ziff and CNL was structured to avoid triggering the state’s right to intervene.”
“MacDonald [NH’s attorney general] said the terms of the lease agreement allow the state to intervene if the company holding the lease decides to sell or transfer it to someone else, but no provision was made for the state to intervene if the company holding the lease is bought by another company.”
On June 7, 2017, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources and Economic Development, issued a memo on the subject.
See NH AG DRED Mt Sunapee Ski Area Memo 2017June7 (pdf 1.2MB)
If you have questions or information to share, please contact us.
Update 06/17/2017 – The memo of June 7, 2017, by NH’s attorney general and DRED commissioner referenced a Lessor Estoppel (signed in September 2016). See CNL Ski – Ground Lease Estoppel – Sunapee -State of New Hampshire (pdf 5 MB)
“What is being planned for winter and summer programs for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park? The operator Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort will discuss its Annual Operating Plan (AOP) 2017-2018 with the state’s Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee on Wed., May 31, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. at the Newbury Town Offices, Route 103. The meeting is open to the public. The resort will discuss operations and projects planned for the coming year, according to the agenda. A hiking trail update is expected, as well.
View/download the agenda here: MSAC-Agenda5-31 (pdf 24kb)
View/download the AOP here: MSR-AOP-2017-2018 (pdf 6MB)
In March 2016, Commissioner Rose (Department of Resources and Economic Development) agreed and said, “maintaining four season hiking on the Summit Trail is a priority. To codify this commitment, DRED, Mount Sunapee Resort and the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Coalition (SRKGC) will enter into a Cooperative Maintenance Agreement, which will protect and maintain the designated trails within the leased boundary. In addition to protecting and maintaining the safety and stewardship of the trails, Mount Sunapee Resort will provide annual spring maintenance on the Summit Trail.”
As of this posting, DRED has not provided FOMS a status report on the Cooperative Maintenance Agreement. FOMS volunteers continue to follow up with DRED, and we’ll post the agreement when made available.
Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort has submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) the Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for 2017-2018 for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The operator has “no major capital projects planned” for the spring and summer of 2017.
At a meeting of the Mount Sunapee (Ski Area) Advisory Committee on May 31, 2017, we expect that the resort operator will give a review of 2016-2017 and then discuss the recently released AOP and plans for the year ahead.
The AOP describes winter and summer activities and includes the resort’s proposal for a new summer activity for the park: a “3-D Archery Course” with “12-15 animal targets located in a secluded and separated area of the South Peak Adventure Park.” Few other details are provided.
See FOMS State Park Management and Policies page for official documents related to management of the ski area including prior operating plans.
Related FOMS post: Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee to meet May 31
Updated May 23, 2017