Greenbrier Sold- But to Whom?

A West Virginia coal and agriculture company said it has acquired The Greenbrier resort.

Not so fast, says hotel giant Marriott International Inc., claiming it had a contract first.

Jim Justice and The Greenbrier said yesterday that Justice’s company, Justice Family Group, acquired the stock of The Greenbrier’s holding company, Greenbrier Hotel Corp. They didn’t provide details of the transaction.

The Greenbrier, a former playground of presidents and royalty and site of a Cold War nuclear bunker for Congress, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March after losing more than $90 million in the past five years, including $35 million in 2008, according to court filings.

In March, Marriott agreed to buy the famous resort for up to $130 million. A spokesman for the Bethesda, Md.-based hotel giant said it expects owner CSX Corp. to live up to that deal.

“We have a contract to acquire the Greenbrier resort, and we intend to fulfill our obligation and expect our counterparties to do the same,” spokesman Thomas Marder said. “We remain committed to our goal of managing the Greenbrier within the Marriott system.”

Justice plans to ask U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond to dismiss the Chapter 11 case. The court would determine whether the dismissal is in the best interest of The Greenbrier’s creditors, said Will Alcott, an attorney with McGuireWoods representing the resort.

“The deal is done. The deal is complete,” Alcott said. “There’s no [court] approval of the deal.” He said the bankruptcy judge can decide whether to allow the bankruptcy to be dismissed.

CSX and its predecessors have owned the resort for nearly a century.

Justice sent a letter to employees yesterday asking them to look forward and to help The Greenbrier recapture a coveted fifth Mobil Travel Guide star it lost in 2000. “The Greenbrier is missing a star in its five-star bloodline. We need to relentlessly work together to restore it,” he wrote.

Unions representing more than 1,100 Greenbrier workers ratified new contract agreements last month that froze wages and were viewed as key to the resort’s pending sale. The resort blamed part of last year’s losses on cancellations because of the labor dispute.

Justice’s company also acquired 80 percent of The Greenbrier Sporting Club, a private housing development on the resort’s 6,500 acres.

Justice is not a hotelier by trade. His company has coal and agricultural operations in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In April, Justice sold the family’s West Virginia coal mines to Russian mining and metals company Mechel OAO for $436 million.