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Justice adds Glade Springs to portfolio

Jim Justice makes business deals at such a furious pace that he sometimes forgets certain details – like names. When The Greenbrier owner was asked about his March 31 acquisition of The Resort at Glade Springs in Beckley, W.Va., he struggled to remember the pronunciation of the name of the man with whom he had made the deal.

For the record, it’s Elmer Coppoolse – pronounced “capulsa” – chairman and CEO of EMCO Hospitality, which owned 45 percent of Glade Springs and will continue to operate the resort. Glade Springs, a 4,100-acre property roughly 40 miles west of The Greenbrier, has three golf courses, an equestrian center, a spa and 203 rooms, along with a wide array of outdoor recreational activities.

Justice said the Glade Springs acquisition had “a little bit of similarity” to his purchase of The Greenbrier, which was in bankruptcy when he acquired it in May 2009.

“Elmer said, ‘I’m coming to you just throwing a Hail Mary pass because it looks like we’ve had it,’ ” Justice recalled.

Justice said that a foreign investor who controlled a 45-percent stake in Glade Springs had run into financial problems.

“They were probably on the verge of something really bad happening,” he said.

Coppoolse said that he was discussing Glade Springs’ financial situation with Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who suggested Coppoolse talk with Justice.

“When you talk to Jim Justice, he does not just want to be an investor, he wants to be the owner,” Coppoolse said.

Justice acquired a 92.5-percent stake in Glade Springs, with EMCO Hospitality owning the rest, according to Coppoolse.

As was the case with The Greenbrier, Justice said he saw the Glade Springs deal as “a solid investment,” but also a good move for his home state.

“It’s West Virginia again, it’s West Virginia jobs,” Justice said. “That’s important to me.”

Justice and Coppoolse hope to exploit synergies between The Greenbrier and Glade Springs. Aside from doubling the number of golf courses available to guests, Justice said that Glade Springs has outdoor activities – such as skiing, whitewater rafting and ATV riding – that complement The Greenbrier’s amenities. Coppoolse said Glade Springs recently underwent $20 million in renovations.

“I think people will see it as an opportunity to stay longer in West Virginia and combine their trip between the two hotels,” Coppoolse said. “Basically, it’s tradition meets adventure.”

Even before the deal was announced, Glade Springs’ Cobb Course was selected to host a qualifier for the inaugural Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event that will be played July 29 to Aug. 1 on the Old White Course. That course recently was renovated and stretched to 7,031 yards.

Justice, who always thinks big, predicted that charitable giving from the Greenbrier Classic will more than double that of any first-year PGA Tour event.

By the time the PGA Tour arrives, The Greenbrier will have a new amenity, a 75,000-square-foot underground casino. The projected opening date is June 9.

“The only thing that’s tough from my end is that it’s way over budget,” Justice said. “It’s way, way, way over budget.”

Justice said the original $25 million budget has ballooned to close to $100 million, but he added, “It’s going to be spectacular.”

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