RANGELEY — Eighteen months ago, it had hoped to buy Saddleback Mountain.

This week, the nonprofit Saddleback Mountain Foundation announced a change in leadership and indicated it is watching the potential sale between the Berry family that owns Saddleback and the Australia-based Majella Group, which signed a purchase agreement for the resort last summer.

“We have been meeting for the last year,” Executive Director Crystal Canney said Tuesday. “There was some discussion around education programs that we wanted to work on, but we really have been meeting to make sure we were in the best possible position if and when a deal didn’t materialize.”

Last week, News Center Maine released audiotape, recorded last September, of Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour, in which Monsour says he is “not going to lose any sleep” if Saddleback did not open and that “the EB-5 program is the reason we are actually buying Saddleback.”

Monsour said an interview the next day with the Portland Press Herald that the EB-5 program, which grants foreign investors visas when they back U.S. projects, was no longer being pursued as a primary funding source. He also told the paper he felt confident a decision from investors and banks approached to finance the project was “imminent.”

Saddleback Mountain has been closed for three ski seasons as the Berrys have looked for a buyer.

Before Majella’s involvement, Peter Stein of the then-newly formed Saddleback Mountain Foundation announced in October 2016 that the foundation was trying to raise a $4 million down payment to secure a purchase agreement with the Berrys.

The vision then was for a private, community-owned company operating the resort.

Canney said $1.2 million was raised and all of it was returned. She declined to comment on whether the group has been newly raising money.

This week, the foundation announced that Stein had stepped down as president and Wolfe Tone, former director of the Maine Trust for Public Land, had been voted the new president.

Stein will remain on the board.

In a press release, Tone said he looked forward to “the new direction we hope to be taking this year. “

“I am deeply indebted to the board for its vote of confidence and will be diligent in leaving no stone unturned to maximize our opportunity and role in the future of Saddleback Mountain,” he said.

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Wolfe Tone is the newly elected president of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation. The group was formed almost two years ago to raise money to buy the Saddleback ski resort. The foundation said this week it is now “positioning” itself in case a current deal with Saddleback owners and Australia-based Majella Group falls through. (Submitted photo)

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