Perhaps the era of long-term employees and owner gratitude is history as the impersonal corporate financial statements dictate policy. From 1996 when the property was purchased from John Gray for $28 million by Lend Lease, the value dropped $15 million by the time of the 2003 sale. Lend Leases real estate operations in the United States were also falling apart in 2003, one reason for the massive real estate sell-offs as key staff defected including Doris Parker-Grossman, the Lend Lease executive based in Chicago who headed up the Lend Lease Lodging and Leisure Group and chiefly responsible for overseeing Salishan Lodge operations. Pension funds under Lend Lease management decided to drop the company and Morgan Stanley acquired the Lend Lease advisory business, the core of the U.S. real estate operation. The last remaining piece of the companys U.S. real estate empire, the fund management division, was bought by Apollo Real Estate in 2004.
The Salishan name (now known as Salishan Spa and Golf Resort) is all that remains of an era when employee loyalty, caring owners and, topping the list, guest service were the chief reasons for success. The Salishan story would make an interesting case study for Harvard Business School, John Grays alma mater; how a foreign corporation with U.S. tentacles could buy a resort on the remote, stormy Oregon coast, hire an eastern management company with no experience in Oregon, and then expect success with a business plan better suited for the Washington D.C./New York City corridor. Bring in outside design consultants who attempt to understand Native American culture in a few months, buy supplies out of state, bring in executives from the East Coast with corporate management theories which disregard the locals and long-time employees; and then expect the formula to work on the sparsely populated Oregon Coast with a strong sense of community.
Businesses come and go on the Oregon Coast with regularity. Because of its small population base, Lincoln County is one community. A successful business from the Willamette Valley may not make it on the Coast. Coastal businesses which survive are those active in the community, whether its supporting the Little League or participating in the Gleneden Beach Fourth of July parade. The locals recognize the businesses which are an active part of the community and, in turn, support those businesses in the dreary winter months when many of the tourists have left. Companies which base profits strictly on summer crowds often fail as the less than 50,000 full-time Lincoln County residents give the business a cold shoulder in the dreary winter months.
As coastal fog blankets the Douglas Firs and the incoming tide slinks into Siletz Bay, echoes of a different time might be heard from Salishan Lodge. Honeymooners toasting each other with Salishan-logoed champagne glasses, family reunions, classical music, opera performances, live jazz in the Attic Lounge; the sounds are there but soon fade.
The Salishan Lodge shell is still there but, just as with a newly-deposited seashell on Gleneden Beach, theres no permanent life inside. There is motion, activity, the appearance of life. But the movement comes from temporary squatters soon to leave and offer the shell, worse for wear, to the next resident. A pounding Pacific surf eventually breaks the fragile shell into pieces and it disappears.