Saddleback ski resort in Rangeley has been closed for four years. BEN MCCANNA/Portland Press Herald

A potential deal to reopen the Saddleback Mountain Ski Resort with help from Boston investors has broken down.

The Berry family, which owns the Rangeley ski operation, and Arctaris Impact Fund, a Boston firm seeking to buy it, traded accusations in separate statements this past week, each blaming the other for stalling the negotiations.

Maine’s third-largest ski area has been closed since the 2014-2015 season, depriving Franklin County of a major employer and tourist destination.

Area business owners said Saturday they were disappointed, but not surprised, to learn the deal had collapsed.

“We’ve heard the same story so many times: ‘It’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.’ But then guess what. It doesn’t happen,” said Crystal Sargent, whose family owns Sarge’s Sports Pub & Grub in Rangeley. “We aren’t going to believe it until we’re sitting in the chairlift riding up the side of the mountain.”

This summer, the investment fund reported being close to a deal after pursuing the resort for more than a year.

But this past week, Arctaris circulated a letter saying that the deal had stalled. The investors said they had signed a preliminary agreement this summer to close on the property in November, but then lost confidence in the Berry family’s willingness to follow through.

“The family seems to have been influenced to continue to entertain other potential buyers rather than close with Arctaris,” Jonathan Tower, a managing partner at the investment fund, said in a letter to David Miller, executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust.

Tower said in the letter that he was “skeptical” of other potential buyers’ ability to reopen the ski resort successfully and called the family’s courting of other suitors “profoundly disappointing.”

The Berry family countered with a statement to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Saturday, accusing Arctaris of “misrepresenting” its dealings and attempting to shift more costs to the family than originally agreed upon.

The Berrys said they had signed a “non-binding letter of intent” on June 27 to sell the property, with the condition that Arctaris shoulder the cost of reopening the resort this coming season.

In July, the deal still looked promising. The family reported being in “serious negotiations” with Arctaris, which secured state support for $10 million in federal tax incentives for investment in low-income areas.

But then Arctaris asked for more reassurances from the family, the Berrys said in their statement. The investors asked that the family absorb costs if the transaction fell through, even if there were no fault on the family’s part, according to the statement.

“The longer the negotiations persisted and the more the Berry Family acquiesced to Arctaris’ demands in an effort to reach a deal, the more Arctaris persisted in shifting additional risks and costs to the Berry Family,” said the statement.

A deal with Arctaris isn’t out of the question, the statement said, but the family is also looking for other buyers.

“We’re looking for a buyer who can make the capital expenditures necessary for the mountain to thrive,” Mark Berry said in a statement provided by the family’s attorney, Severin Beliveau.

The dealmaking hitch means that the ski mountain is unlikely to reopen this season, the family said.

Later, on Saturday night, Tower issued a statement, saying: “We respect the Berry family and we are hoping to finish the work they started. We remain willing to close on the terms of the letter of intent we both signed in June.”

Sargent said earlier Saturday that Sarge’s Sports Pub & Grub, her father-in-law’s business, dipped when Saddleback closed, but has survived due to a loyal crowd of local customers who made a point of patronizing local businesses during the resort’s closure, as well as the support of a fun-loving snowmobiling crowd that seems to grow in size each winter.

Still, the closure has left a hole in the community as well as the pocketbooks of local businesses, Sargent said. Families moved away when parents lost their resort jobs, leaving a lot of empty seats in the schools. The children who remain miss the weekly ski trips the resort organized every Tuesday afternoon.

“It seemed like the whole town either worked there, played there or worked because of there,” she said. “I think we all have our fingers crossed it’s going to come back someday, but I don’t think any of us are holding are breath anymore.”

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