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Blakes Sell Taos

After 60 years in the Valley, the founding family moves on.

The Blake family has sold Taos Ski Valley to hedge fund billionaire Louis Moore Bacon.  Bacon has already acquired the three acres of land at the heart of the village upon which he will build about 14,000 square feet of new service facilities, plus a condominium tower. Under a new Forest Service-approved master plan, Bacon will construct the new Kachina high-speed quad this summer, plus two more over the next five years.

In a press release, Taos CEO Mickey Blake, son of the founders Ernie and Rhoda Blake (photo above), said “Louis and his team have been true partners for many years and have played collaborative roles in the vision our family has for the ski valley, the base area redevelopment and the on-mountain improvements. Based on our relationship and his track record for conservation, our family approached Louis about purchasing Taos Ski Valley. We believe Louis is the right person to ensure a viable future for the ski valley and that his ownership will be beneficial to our employees, Taos' residents and guests. We are pleased he was interested in our proposal and we look forward to working together on the transition."

The press release noted that all current employees will stay on, and the Blake family will retain a seat on the Board of Directors. But according to marketing director Adrianna Blake, the family plans to move on, leaving the Valley after six decades. COO Gordon Briner replaces Mickey Blake as CEO.

Bacon, 55, has owned property in Taos Ski Valley since 1996.  A 1979 graduate of Middlebury College (majoring in American literature), he went on to earn an MBA at Columbia (he lost money investing his student loan funds). After working a variety of Wall Street jobs, in 1990 he used a $25,000 inheritance from his mother to found Moore Capital Management, now with $15 billion under management. Bacon’s wealth is estimated at about $1.6 billion.

Bacon has been an enthusiastic conservationist, protecting land on Long Island, N.Y., in northern New Mexico, and on a couple of large ranches in Colorado. In 1996 he bought the 20,000-acre Tercio Ranch in Las Animas County, Colo., and in 2007 bought the 172,000 acre Trinchera Blanca Ranch, at the head of the San Luis Valley, from Malcom Forbes. Bacon, with his six kids, reportedly skis on the land, using snowmobiles for uphill transport.

In 2011, Bacon fought to prevent construction of a transmission line to carry solar power from the San Luis Valley to the Denver-area; the campaign pitted clean-power advocates against large landowners. After Moore Capital invested $55 million in Xcel Energy, the utility company terminated the transmission line project. In 2012, in separate agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bacon placed the Trinchera and Tercio properties into perpetual conservation easements, the largest ever concluded with the USFWS.

At the same time the Taos purchase was announced, Bacon (a Republican and Mitt Romney supporter) partnered with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (a Democrat and native of the San Luis Valley) in forming a conservation political action committee.  –Seth Masia

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