A firm under the Talisker Corporation umbrella on Wednesday served Park City Mountain Resort with a notice to leave the premises, giving the resort five days, until Monday, to move off most of the land where PCMR operates.
The de facto eviction notice was part of a round of strongly worded messages between the two sides in the past two weeks in an increasingly bitter dispute about PCMR's presence on much of the acreage where it has operated for decades. It was an extraordinary move that immediately further heightened the tension as the community begins to prepare for the ski season.
The land is under the ownership of a firm under the Talisker Corporation umbrella. The dispute centers on PCMR's attempt to renew the lease in 2011. The Talisker Corporation side argues that the lease was not renewed, prompting PCMR to file the lawsuit in 3rd District Court in an effort to remain on the land. Talisker Corporation earlier won the dismissal of key points in the lawsuit. Other parts remain intact. A hearing about the discovery process, when the two sides obtain information from the other, is scheduled Friday morning.
Vail Resorts is leading the litigation efforts on the Talisker Corporation side as a part of a long-term agreement to operate that firm's Canyons Resort. The operations agreement could expand to include PCMR's disputed ski terrain depending on the results of the lawsuit.
The eviction notice was delivered in two documents by an entity called Talisker Land Holdings, LLC. PCMR is a tenant and the tenancy is being terminated, the Talisker Corporation side said in the documents. They are addressed to John Cumming, who is the chairman and CEO of firm tied to PCMR called Greater Park City Company, PCMR lead attorney Alan Sullivan and Matt Ireland, who is the president of another firm tied to PCMR called Greater Properties, Inc.
Talisker Corporation would need to appear before the judge in the case prior to acting on an eviction.
PCMR condemns move
Jenni Smith, the president and general manager of PCMR, condemned the move, saying that the resort is continuing to ready for the 2013-2014 ski season. In a prepared statement, Smith outlined that important holdings would remain with the PCMR side regardless of the lawsuit results. They include the base area, the parking lots, skiing terrain at the lower elevations of the resort and the Town Lift, according to Smith. She said water rights and the snowmaking system throughout the entire resort will also stay with PCMR.
"Vail's action is nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to circumvent the litigation already in process and interfere with our business. We will not give in to Vail's bullying, and look forward to conducting business as usual for the 2013-14 season," Smith said in a prepared statement released on Wednesday.
Vail Resorts, meanwhile, issued what was a rare public statement about the dispute, saying on Thursday that it did not intend to hinder the operations of PCMR during the upcoming ski season. Kelly Ladyga, the Vail Resorts vice president of corporate communications, said in the statement "there is no intent by Talisker to take any action that would prevent PCMR's ability to operate their resort during the upcoming 2013-2014 ski season."
"We are very cognizant of the importance of this situation to the entire Park City community and we look forward to bringing this situation and its uncertainty to a conclusion," Ladyga said.
The statement acknowledged "there will be a number of actions required to bring this dispute to closure."
"We have an obligation to protect and preserve Talisker's and our interest in this matter. We are concerned with the behavior that Park City Mountain Resort has demonstrated in this situation," she said.
Case is highly charged
The back-and-forth this week follows shortly after a highly charged exchange of correspondences between the two sides centered on the days surrounding when the lease was to be renewed in 2011. The Talisker Corporation side charged that PCMR put an earlier date on a crucial letter that resort management saw as confirming the lease extension in 2011. The tone of the Talisker Corporation side became more pointed during the exchange of the correspondences.
In one of the Wednesday documents, the Talisker Corporation side cites the letter in saying that "we have now discovered and forced you to admit that you intentionally backdated that letter."
"You now claim that the backdating of this document was a mistake for which you apologize. We do not view the intentional backdating of a formal notice you thought was critical to be merely a mistake and an apology delivered after over two years have gone by rings hollow," the document says. "Backdating a document is a tactic solely used to deceive a business partner."
The document also says: "Despite our dispute and us not receiving a fair rent from you, we have made every effort to be constructive and patient with this process, because we know how important this situation is to the community in which we both operate. Unfortunately this is no longer just a good faith disagreement, but a question of how you have chosen to do business. Your backdating of this notice and your apparent efforts to keep it hidden force us to take a different approach to our dispute and long-term relationship."
Both of the Wednesday documents were signed by Fiona Arnold, identified as the manager of a firm called Talisker Land Resolution, LLC. Arnold is the executive vice president and an attorney for Vail Resorts.
One of them, called a notice to quit, contends the PCMR leases, which date to the 1970s, expired on April 30, 2011. The document says ski lifts and other improvements will belong to a Talisker Corporation firm, but the PCMR side will be given 60 days to retrieve personal property and equipment that is not attached to the land.