BusinessWeek – Since hotelier Tobias Zurbriggen can remember, the business of running Saas-Fee has been a local affair. Now, the Swiss ski resort neighboring the Matterhorn is feeling the heat from a New York-based financier.
Edmond Offermann, a nuclear scientist turned millionaire working for hedge fund Renaissance Technologies LLC, invested 15 million Swiss francs ($16.4 million) in 2010 to revive Saas- Fee’s struggling ski-lift company.
“It’s like a hobby, which completely got out of control,” Offermann, 53, said in an interview from Long Island, New York. He wants to shake things up by managing hotels and the ski-lift operator in one company controlled by a single chief executive.
The franc’s 30 percent appreciation against the euro during the past five years is making his project more difficult as skiers look for better deals in euro-zone countries. Offermann is now seeking funds from international investors to finance new lift projects and connect Saas-Fee to Zermatt to make the valley less vulnerable to seasonal swings and competition from neighboring Austria, Italy and France.