The CEO of Vail Resorts on Wednesday night, making a high-profile appearance in Park City, indicated to a crowd there could be more dramatic moments upcoming in a closely watched lawsuit involving the Colorado firm, Talisker Land Holdings, LLC and Park City Mountain Resort.
Rob Katz spoke about the case in broad terms during his remarks to an invitation-only crowd at the Kimball Art Center that included City Hall officials, businesspeople, not-for-profit executives and others. The event was both a meet-and-greet with a roster of Vail Resorts executives and a celebration marking the first local distribution of grant monies through the firm's Echo program.
Katz acknowledged that the publicity the case has received could be unsettling. He said, though, Vail Resorts is not attempting to disrupt business or the upcoming ski season. PCMR has been worried about that possibility. The comment appeared to stem from a recent move by the Vail Resorts side to evict PCMR.
"In any dispute, there's going to be some, some fireworks, potentially, and I would say I'm not sure that they're done. You know I'd love to say . . . they're done, but the way, you know, litigation works these days it's hard to, hard to kind of commit to that," Katz said.
He did not provide details about what sorts of moves might be upcoming in the case. The PCMR side recently expanded the lawsuit to include more points and additional defendants, including one under the Vail Resorts umbrella.
"I'm sure that whoever is ultimately successful in that, the other party will do the right thing, will respect it, will move forward and the community will move on," Katz said.
The case centers on PCMR's lease of Talisker Land Holdings, LLC acreage that encompasses much of the resort's terrain. The Talisker Land Holdings, LLC side claims PCMR did not renew the lease, prompting the resort to file the lawsuit in 3rd District Court. Vail Resorts is overseeing the case as a part of its long-term deal with Talisker Land Holdings, LLC to operate Canyons Resort. The deal could be expanded to include the PCMR terrain depending on the results of the lawsuit.
In an interview after his remarks to the crowd, Katz said the case could be resolved "hopefully, relatively soon," a comment that could point to the possibility of a settlement. He declined to discuss the prospects of a settlement, though.
Katz spoke about the possibilities on the PCMR terrain as the firm reached the agreement to operate Canyons Resort and assume responsibility for the lawsuit earlier in 2013. Katz said the case is unfolding as Vail Resorts anticipated.
"This is a situation that Vail Resorts got involved in, you know, when things were already proceeding. And I would say that, yea, everything has been very, very consistent, 100 percent consistent, with our expectations," he said.
He said Vail Resorts wants a resolution "to this that is really in the best interests of the guests and of the community. If ultimately the outcome here is not in their best interests, then that's probably not a good outcome."
Katz spoke about the idea of someday linking PCMR and Canyons Resort, something that has been broached before with little apparent progress. He said there is a "one-of-a-kind special situation" that could offer the opportunity for a link.
"To connect that ski experience and make it an experience that would literally be, at 7,300 acres, the biggest and absolute, you know, one of the best ski resorts in the United States would be unbelievable," he said in his remarks to the crowd.
Other topics he addressed in his remarks included:
"Our company has coveted Park City, the town and the community, for a very long period of time. This is one of the greatest resort communities anywhere in the world," he said.
"Taking care of our communities was going to be one of the most important things we do to make sure that our, we're successful, financially, not just that we're doing the right thing. We actually feel like ensuring the health of the community is ensuring our own financial health," he said.
"This is the beginning of a relationship, and communication and transparency, I think, is critical."
PCMR: no talks while Vail was in town
The president and general manager of PCMR said in an interview on Friday she was not aware of any meetings between Vail Resorts executives and PCMR this week while representatives of the Colorado firm were in Park City.
Jenni Smith said PCMR plans to continue to be a contributing member of the Park City community regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. She praised Vail Resorts' efforts in distributing the grants.