Hakuba’s dreams of emulating Niseko’s international success have received a boost with the purchase of one of its resorts by private equity fund giant Warburg Pincus.
Located in Nagano and host of many events of 1998’s Winter Olympics, Hakuba is regarded as main island Honshu’s number one skiing region.
Warburg Pincus have bought Hakuba 47, a trendy 15 year old resort near Happo-one (roughly pronounced ha-po-ne), Hakuba’s premier resort.
Second generation US/Japanese investment banker Kenta Takamori teamed up with Warburg Pincus after working individually on acquiring a ski resort in Japan for over a year.
“I have conviction in the potential of Japan’s mountains and in the potential to turn around ski resorts in Japan”, Takamori said.
“I worked with a couple of private equity firms over the past year, but finally teamed up with Warburg Pincus to acquire Hakuba 47.”
Citing the youth of the resort, Takamori said there was excellent base development potential, and they plan to work with the existing management to create an ‘international, environmentally friendly resort’.
There is talk that Happo-one and Hakuba 47 may be linked by gondola or cable car in the future as well.
Happo-one is an old favourite of skiers because of its steep, big mountain terrain, and Hakuba 47 has a bit more backcountry access.
Hakuba Real Estate manager Mick Baker said there had been a definite increase in international tourists to Hakuba over the past two seasons.
Chinese and Korean tourists are the largest in number, followed closely by Australians.