Apollo Management has named Adam Aron, the former chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, as a senior operating partner of the firm. Aron, who spent ten years as the chairman and CEO of the North American mountain resort operator, will join the New York-based private equity firm to assist its investments in the travel and leisure, lodging and entertainment sectors.
Apollo knows Aron well: the private equity firm acquired a majority stake in Vail Resorts in 1992 and hired Aron to run it in 1996. Under Aron’s direction, the company significantly expanded its operations, acquiring three additional ski resorts in Colorado and Northern California, purchasing the Grand Teton Lodging Company in Wyoming and building out a resort hospitality business, Rock Resorts, throughout the United States.
Aron’s affiliation with Apollo extends to its former executives as well. Earlier this year, Aron became a director of Marathon Acquisition, a “blank check” special purpose acquisition vehicle started by Michael Gross, a former senior partner at Apollo. Marathon, which hopes to raise $300 million (€235 million), plans to acquire one or more operating businesses and then seek a listing on the American Stock Exchange, according to SEC filings.
Aron’s appointment comes at the same time that a number of private investors are targeting investments in the ski resort sector. Last year, Greenwich, Connecticut-based private equity real estate firm Starwood Capital, led by former Starwood Hotels CEO Barry Sternlicht, acquired a majority interest in Mammoth Mountain in Northern California. And last month, New York-based alternative investment firm Fortress purchased Intrawest, owner of such ski resorts as Whistler and Copper Mountain, for $2.8 billion.
Apollo, which also runs a series of private equity real estate funds through its affiliate Apollo Real Estate Advisors, has invested in a number of resort and leisure companies over the years. In addition to Vail Resorts, Apollo and its affiliates have acquired such companies as hotel operator Wyndham and golf course roll-up KSL Fairways. Earlier this year, Apollo closed on approximately $10 billion for its latest private equity vehicle, while Apollo Real Estate raised $700 million for its fifth domestic real estate vehicle.
By teaming up with a well-known private equity firm, Aron is following in the footsteps of one of his predecessors. Mike Shannon, the CEO of Vail Resorts prior to the Apollo’s buyout, recently formed KSL Capital Partners after spending more than a decade running KSL Recreation, a KKR-affiliate that invested $524 million of equity into 15 companies. Earlier this summer, KSL raised over $1 billion for its debut fund.