The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 6, 2009

Manchin says CSX no longer wants resort

Finding buyer for The Greenbrier may depend on amending law to allow more gaming revenue to be kept, delegate says

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Amending a 1999 law to allow The Greenbrier to retain a greater percentage of gaming profits and fund a benefits package for employees could be one of the keys to finding a new owner for the 231-year-old resort.

Gov. Joe Manchin said potential suitors are now lining up for the possible sale of the four-star resort that’s owned by railroad giant CSX Corp.

“I hear there are two or possibly three legitimate companies with hotel experience that have expressed interest in purchasing the hotel; that’s my understanding,” Manchin told The Register-Herald by phone Thursday. “CSX doesn’t want to be the owners of the resort any longer.”

Manchin said he’s spoken with CSX CEO Michael Ward about the potential sale and believes the proposed legislation he is advancing to the Legislature will help facilitate the sale.

“Michael Ward has agreed that the bill being discussed is a good piece of legislation which creates options for CSX and makes it more attractive for potential buyers of the resort,” Manchin said.

The amendment is being sponsored by all four lawmakers representing Greenbrier County.

It would allow the financially troubled resort to retain an estimated increase of $8 million to $11 million in gaming revenue and also divert an additional $2 million to $2.5 million into a special Greenbrier employee benefits fund.

Resort officials previously said the hotel lost $35 million in 2008 and hundreds of employees were laid off earlier this year due to a decrease in guests.

The resort has also been mired in a year-long labor dispute over a new collective bargaining agreement. Last fall, Greenbrier voters passed a union-backed referendum allowing gaming at the hotel. The referendum was part of the original 1999 legislation.

Talks between hotel and union representatives resumed Thursday, but no significant developments were reported.

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