Financier Murray Edwards is selling half his interest in the Lake Louise resort area back to Charlie Locke — a former ski hill mogul who owned the property for decades before his company went into receivership.

Edwards, a major oilpatch player and co-owner of the Calgary Flames, controls a string of ski resorts under the umbrella of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. But the Calgary businessman is planning to shed half his stake in Lake Louise in order to concentrate on real estate opportunities in places like Fernie and Kimberley, a company spokesman confirmed Thursday.

“Now management can focus full time on our other resorts which have large demands for real estate development,” said Matt Mosteller of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. The opportunity just isn’t there at Lake Louise, he noted.  Federal restrictions limit building in national parks, creating challenges for resort operators in Banff and Lake Louise. “It takes so much energy to move real estate projects forward. We just think this is the right thing to do at the right time,” said Mosteller.

The deal — which is still pending– would see Locke take over the daily operations of the ski hill. Both sides declined to discuss the financial details of the arrangement.  “I will be the managing partner. It will be operated basically independently from, but affiliated with, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies,” Locke said. Locke — a onetime mountain guide who in the 1990s ran the largest privately owned ski empire in Canada — said he’s anxious to return to the job. “I’ve been retired for five years and travelled and played,” he said.  “But my passion is the ski business — Lake Louise in particular.”

The two businessmen have a long history. In 2001, Edwards rescued Locke’s financially troubled company, Skiing Louise Ltd., after a slow start to the ski season saw it hit bumpy terrain.  A competing bid from a consortium that included longtime business rival and Sunshine Village owner Ralph Scurfield was rejected. Locke and Scurfield have shared an often acrimonious relationship that dates back to the 1980s, when Locke won the battle to acquire Lake Louise. Scurfield declined to comment on the deal Thursday.

Fernie Mayor Randal Macnair said he hopes the arrangement will translate into development opportunities for the other properties owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. The company also owns ski hills in Fernie, Kimberley and Quebec. “The reality is there hasn’t been a whole lot investment in the Fernie property in the last number of years,” Macnair said. “Anything that will encourage that is a good thing.”

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