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PHILADELPHIA-A four-year family battle over the rights to sell Champion, PA-based Seven Springs Mountain Resort was resolved yesterday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In a 4-1 decision, the court ruled that two of the three families that own the 5,000-acre property have the right to sell it to an outsider without first offering it to the third family.

The family members involved in the litigation are Herman Dupre, current president of the resort and son of the 70-year-old property’s founder; his sister, Luitgarde Dupre Sujansky; and their sister in law, Lois Dupre Shuster, the remarried widow of Phillip Dupre.

In 1998, Vail, CO-based Booth Creek Holdings offered $88.5 million for the resort in a merger deal. Dupre and Sujansky wanted to merge the resort into a subsidiary of Booth Creek and maintain the Seven Springs identity. Shuster argued such a veiled sale by the shareholders should be prohibited by a buy-sell agreement that all three owners signed in 1969.

The court’s decision in favor of Dupre and Sujansky is currently moot, as Booth Creek, weary of litigation, withdrew the offer in 1999, and no sale or merger transactions are pending.

All three families have and will continue to operate the resort. In fact, a year ago, they announced a $230-million, five-year expansion plan for Seven Springs.

To preclude yesterday’s ruling from having long-standing impact on family businesses throughout the state, the judge added a footnote to the ruling, confining it to particular wording in this buy-sell agreement, and stating that it “by no means makes the right of first refusal either meaningless or empty.”

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