West Virginia's bankrupt Greenbrier resort, whose owners in March announced plans to sell the historic property to Marriott, said on Thursday that the property has been bought instead by a local businessman.

The announcement came as a surprise to many, including Marriott.

"We have not yet seen any documents regarding the transaction other than the press release," Marriott said in a statement. "Our purchase agreement for the resort remains outstanding, subject to the process of the bankruptcy court in Richmond, Va.

"As such, we are in the process of assessing the situation. Obviously, our having entered into a purchase and sale agreement involving the resort demonstrates that we think it's an exceptional property, and we continue to look forward to having the opportunity to ultimately manage the Greenbrier within the Marriott system."

The Greenbrier said Jim Justice bought the resort and 80% of the Greenbrier Sporting Club. JWV-Greenbrierustice Family Group LLC made the acquisition by purchasing the Greenbrier holding company's stock.

"I am very excited to become part of one of America’s finest traditions," said Justice. "The Greenbrier is uniquely West Virginian, and I look forward to working with the team to build on its legacy."

Justice said he plans to seek dismissal of the Greenbrier's bankruptcy.

"Our near-term goal is to give the Greenbrier a fresh start," said Justice. "Even though the current economy is taking its toll on the resort, we are going to take a long-term view by focusing on reclaiming our five-star status and making the right investments for future growth."

Rail transportation company CSX had agreed to sell the resort to Marriott for up to $130 million. During Marriott's recent earnings call with investors, executives said the deal remained on track.

In the press release announcing the new deal, CSX President Michael Ward, said, "While this is an entirely different kind of transaction than expected, this is a great result for the Greenbrier, its employees, the community and CSX. Mr. Justice has made his passion and enthusiasm for the Greenbrier very clear."

The news came just days after the Greenbrier’s unions approved a new labor pact. That was a crucial element to the Marriott deal, as labor strife was resulting in group cancellations, even before the recession caused meetings business to tumble.

The Greenbrier lost $35 million in 2008. Earlier this year, the resort laid off 650 employees, about half of its workforce.

The report was updated to add Marriott's statement.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI