Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 3, 2010

Entrepreneur plans to buy shuttered resort

CEDAR -- Liko "Sean" Smith doesn't plan to dally.

The Las Vegas-based entrepreneur has big plans for Leelanau County's long-shuttered Sugar Loaf Resort, and he wants it open in a hurry. If all goes according to plans, he'll plunk down millions and have 100 rooms open at the resort's hotel by July 4.

"The key to this is speed and pragmatism," he said Friday.

The once-popular resort that covers several hundred acres in Cleveland and Centerville townships closed in 2000 amid a sea of financial troubles and back-to-back poor snow seasons. Multiple attempts to reopen never materialized.

Smith, 39, said he'd spend about $10 million to purchase the entire resort, an attached golf course and a supporting water treatment plant, parcels now owned by separate parties. He's been in contact with owners and hopes to finalize the purchase soon.

"All the contracts are being drafted; we expect to close by the end of the month," he said.

The Arnold Palmer-designed course at the resort recently was purchased by a group led by Homestead resort president Robert Kuras and reopened as Manitou Passage. It won't be included in the deal.

Smith discovered the resort in February. He was in Traverse City on a vacation with his wife when a business associate recommended he check out Sugar Loaf. He was "blown away" by the resort, he said, and grew more excited when he sensed the public's strong desire to see it reopened.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said.

Smith believes "too many players" have been involved in the operation's ownership. It will be successful if unified and operated by a single owner, he believes.

"Unless you do that, you're going to fail," he said. "I don't care who you are."

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