Bristol Bay Native Corp. plans purchase of Katmailand

Apr 25, 2016

BBNC expanding footprint in region's tourism industry with buyout of major bear viewing, sport fishing operation in Katmai.

A major tourist attraction shuffles through Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park. The camp is part of Katmailand, which has operated since the 1950s, well before it was a National Park.
Credit Courtesy Katmailand

KDLG: The Bristol Bay Native Corporation announced plans to acquire Katmailand, Inc., a long running sport fishing and bear viewing operation in and around Katmai National Park.

Katmailand, Inc. is a major sport fishing and bear viewing lodge operation, built and founded by Ray Petersen in 1950, which predates Katmai National Park by 30 years. Today it is the largest operator within the park, taking tourists from around the world to iconic Brooks Falls.

(This video offers a look at Angler's Paradise Lodges, now Katmailand, back in the day.)

Sonny Petersen is Ray’s son, and is the owner and president of Katmailand.

“You know I’ve been working out there pretty much my whole life, but I’m getting to be older,” said Petersen. “I’ll be 64 this year, and I’m looking towards retirement, eventually. BBNC is a local company, it’s owned by people who live out in Bristol Bay. I think it’s a good fit, and I’m proud to be selling to them.”

Petersen says Katmailand probably runs five to six thousand people a year through the National Park and a thousand or so more through the sport fishing lodges. Business has been good, and Petersen doesn’t expect new owner BBNC to change much.

“That’s their plan. I’m still going to manage it for at least two years, perhaps longer. And they’re keeping all the staff and managers at our lodges, and Katmai Air,” Petersen said . “They basically feel like they’re buying a going concern, and they don’t want to mess it up. If anything, they’ll be able to maybe help us improve it.”

Those sentiments were echoed by BBNC president and CEO Jason Metrokin.

“Our track record is to look at and target businesses that are success stories,” said Metrokin. “We’re not necessarily in the business of buying fixer-uppers, if you will.”

Four years ago, BBNC bought the Mission Lodge on Lake Aleknagik, its first major investment in Bristol Bay since it sold Peter Pan Seafoods in 1979. Last year it purchased Bristol Alliance Fuels in Dillingham. Katmailand, Inc. is the third. Besides turning a profit for shareholders, Metrokin said there are the non-financial components of these investments:

“This is an opportunity for added diversification, not just within BBNC’s investment mix, but within the region itself,” Metrokin said. “There are employment opportunities, training opportunities, and particularly in the case with Katmailand, this is a direct tie for BBNC with our culture and our lands, and to expand our relationship with the Park Service.”

Of course, the multi-million dollar question will go unanswered for now; neither side was willing to disclose terms of the sale. But considering Katmailand’s many assets, it no doubt carried a hefty price tag.

The sale won’t be finalized until the end of May, but was announced this week to give BBNC time to work with the staff and with Katmai National Park ahead of the busy summer.