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Joyce Endee

Tillotson Corp. directors select new owner of The Balsams

March 11, 2011
DIXVILLE — The directors of the Tillotson Corporation appear to have selected the next owner of The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel and associated properties: Balville, LLC, a newly established New Hampshire corporation. Because the Grand Hotel is held by a charitable trust, however, their decision will have to be approved by the Director of the Charitable Division, Anne Edwards, of the State Attorney General's Office in Concord before the sale documents can be readied for signature.

A corporate document recently filed on Feb. 24 under the Balville name at the New Hampshire Secretary of State's Office lists Thomas Keane as its Portsmouth attorney and Richard Ade, the chief financial officer and executive vice president of Ocean Properties, Ltd., of Portsmouth, as the manager of the entity set up to "own and operate a hotel and related amenities."

The Balsams is currently owned by the Tillotson Corp. of Lexington, Mass., that, in turn, is owned by the Neil Tillotson Trust as directed by the will of the late Mr. Tillotson, who died on Oct. 17, 2001, at the age of 102. All Trust assets, or proceeds from the sale of Trust assets, must be distributed to charity for the benefit of the North Country.

Tom Deans of Conway, who recently succeeded Grafton Corbett as president of the Tillotson Corp., has responsibility for managing the sale of Trust assets, and as Managing Trustee of the Trust, also has responsibility for accomplishing this for charitable purposes.

Mr. Deans was senior vice president of the N. H. Charitable Foundation for many years before his retirement, this following 24 years of service from 1964 to 1988 as the executive director of the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston, Mass.

Four local men, general manager Jeff McIver, contractor Dan Hebert, and successful auto dealer Danny Dagesse, plus Rick Tillotson — one the late Mr. T's sons — formed the Cold Spring Management Company, LLC, in order to bid on purchasing The Balsams. The foursome believed that the hotel and associated lakes, golf courses, ski area, woodlands, and other amenities could be a good long-term investment and also benefit local people by providing good jobs and land stewardship.

Tillotson recently resigned from Cold Spring, however, when on Feb. 22 he learned that the directors had decided to not to tap Cold Spring as the next owner-operators of the Grand Resort.

"My purpose has always been to see that Neil Tillotson's intentions for The Balsams and the North Country are fulfilled," he said in a press release. He had hoped that by investing in Cold Spring he could help by contributing his knowledge and his passion for The Balsams, he explained. Tillotson understood, however, that being a would-be investor as well as a director and Trustee of the seller, placed him in a position of having a conflict of interest in which he would have to give up any participation in making decisions about The Balsams' future.

Steve Barba of Concord, former president of The Balsams Corporation, was similarly excluded by a conflict of interest.

Tillotson said he was concerned that those individuals in a position to make such decisions had had little opportunity to gain an understanding of The Balsams, of the resort hotel business, or of the surrounding communities that rely on the North Country icon for much of their economic livelihood.

He realized, Tillotson said, that he needed to get back to the table where decisions would be made about the future of this property in Dixville, Colebrook, Columbia, and Stewartstown, which includes The Balsams Resort and the Tillotson Rubber Co., Inc. factory, at which he started in 1968 to work for his father.

"I really feel sad about taking another step toward the end of the Tillotson family stewardship of this special North Country place," he said in the press release. "(My father) Neil Tillotson set up his Trust to benefit the communities within a 25-mile radius of Dixville, and I have strived to honor and fulfill that trust. I am concerned about some rumors (about the buyer), and I am concerned by what I don't know about the process used to make this important decision." Tillotson said he was particularly concerned that the hotel might not operate in the winter months, as is the case with two of their resort properties — the Samoset near Camden, Me., and the Sagamore on Lake George, N. Y.

Now, relieved from his conflict, Tillotson is beginning to review materials received from John Cornish, the attorney negotiating its sale.

The decision of the Tillotson directors is only one step in the sale approval process, however. Because the property is a Trust asset, the

Charitable Trust office of the N.H. State Attorney General's Office must review all sale or disposition decisions.

"If not approved there, or if there are questions about a transaction from the perspective of the Trust beneficiaries, the decision may then be sent to the Probate Court for its review," Tillotson pointed out.

"Anne Edwards has stated that her role as Director of Charitable Trusts places her in the position of assuring that the assets of the trusts in the State are used to further the charitable intentions of the donors," Tillotson said. "With this assurance, all of us in the North Country can expect that the process, when completed, will have been fair and that the buyer most likely to fulfill Neil Tillotson's intentions has been chosen."

At the time of this writing, telephone calls to both Mr. Deans and the general manager of the Wentworth-by-the-Sea in New Castle, an Ocean Properties, Ltd.-owned hotel had not been returned.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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