All Resort Group, once mighty, sold in pieces to highest bidder (video)
It is a Monday morning in October in a largely abandoned office in a building along Kearns Boulevard. Some of the furniture remains and papers are scattered about. It seems that the former tenant, All Resort Group, Inc., had been hurried as it moved out.
A dozen or so people gather around a table as they await the description of Lot No. 2. It is the most desirable lot in an auction that, even in the depths of the recession, would have seemed a far-fetched scenario in Park City, a community that largely withstood the downturn and has enjoyed rapid economic expansion in the years since.
On this morning, David Miller, a trustee appointed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Salt Lake City, is overseeing an auction involving some of the most notable assets of All Resort Group, Inc., a large, long-established transportation firm in Park City that sought bankruptcy protection in late April. It was a voluntary filing, initially submitted under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code and then converted to Chapter 7. All Resort Group, Inc. at the time of the April filing had wanted to reorganize with the intention of paying its debts. The company, though, was unable to do so. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge assigned to the case, R. Kimball Mosier, signed an order authorizing the auction just three days before the bidding.
Miller stands in front of representatives of transportation companies of various stature and ambition, each interested in acquiring All Resort Group, Inc. assets at the auction. It is an unprecedented opportunity to abruptly move into Park City’s competitive taxi and shuttle industry or to expand an existing industry footprint, perhaps at cut-rate prices since the lots are to be sold to the highest bidder. They are inside what appears to be the former boardroom of All Resort Group, Inc. Some seem to be on the phone with their firms’ executives as the bidding starts, inquiring whether they want to continue to pursue an auction lot as the dollar figures rise.
Lot No. 2 is especially attractive to the bidders. It covers Park City Transportation, one of the firms under the corporate umbrella of All Resort Group, Inc. The 21 names that Park City Transportation used in business, including Park City Taxi, P C Transportation and 645 Taxi, are included. Websites, trademarks, phone numbers and the critical lists of customers are also to be sold with Lot No. 2.
Miller starts the auction at $1,000, quickly receiving a bid at the opening price. Another person raises his card seconds later to signal a bid of $2,000. Miller asks for a $5,000 bid but does not receive one initially. The bidding is hot anyway. The number hits $3,000, then $4,000, then $5,000 and then $5,500. The potential buyers barely pause. A $6,000 bid is entered before the number soon reaches $7,500, $8,000 and then $8,500, eventually hitting the five-digit mark at $10,000.
The $10,000 bid does not end the auction. It only provides evidence of the intense interest in the All Resort Group, Inc. assets. The number soon moves to $11,000, then $12,000 and, in rapid succession, the bids reach $20,000. Miller wants a $25,000 offer.
“Do I have 25?” Miller asks the bidders. “Let’s move this along. We’re going to get there. You know it, we’re going to get there.”
Driven to bankruptcy
By late April, at the end of a ski season that, according to the industry group Ski Utah, was the busiest ever in the state as measured by skier-days, the All Resort Group, Inc. leadership understood the company’s financial situation was precarious. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on April 28 in Salt Lake City. The bankruptcy petition listed more than 60 affiliated companies, highlighting the large industry footprint of All Resort Group, Inc. Some did business under the All Resort moniker while others were branded with “Park City” or “Salt Lake City” in their names.
It showed All Resort Group, Inc. had assets estimated to be valued at between $10,000,001 and $50 million, the same range the petition listed as it detailed the estimated liabilities. The creditor list was estimated to range from as few as 200 to as many as 999, according to the filing.
The petition provided a rundown of the 20 largest unsecured claims against All Resort Group, Inc., listing the creditors and the amounts owed. The largest unsecured claim, pegged at $155,118.83 and held by a company called Hincklease, Inc. in Salt Lake City, was linked to lease payments. Another six-figure unsecured claim, $126,511.83, was held by HealthEZ, a Bloomington, Minnesota, company that said it was owed that sum in insurance premiums.
An Ohio petroleum firm calculated its claim at a little more than $90,000, while a Nevada touring company said $77,515 was owed for sub-charter fees. A Salt Lake City investment firm, meanwhile, claimed $23,245.52 was owed in lease payments for the Kearns Boulevard space where All Resort Group, Inc. kept its offices and where the auction was eventually held.
Gordon Cummins, who at the time of the bankruptcy petition was a minority owner of All Resort Group, Inc. and the firm’s vice president, said in May the company intended to remain operating and no layoffs were planned as a result of the filing. He said at the time the decision to file the petition was made after of a series of financial issues, including compiling hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney bills tied to lawsuits as well as owner mistakes in everyday business decisions.
Cummins said business was strong regardless. The first three months of the year, the core of the ski season, represented the best quarter in approximately four years, he said.
All Resort Group, Inc. succumbed to the financial issues in the fall, however. The company was shuttered early on a Thursday evening in mid-September. It was one of the most stunning local business failures since the recession sent convulsions through the area’s lodging industry.
Cummins at the time said an investment group in Phoenix had implied it would acquire All Resort Group, Inc. before it shut down. It planned to send executives to Park City to meet with the transportation company’s managers and walk through the facilities, he said. The investment group, though, withdrew its intent to acquire All Resort Group, Inc. The deal fell through just hours before the company closed.
The failure to reach an agreement rippled through Park City as the All Resort Group, Inc. situation became publicly known. Several hundred employees were impacted, including drivers and office workers. All Resort Group, Inc. suggested they file for unemployment benefits.
Other transportation companies in Park City wondered whether the shutdown would steer business to their own services. There was concern the rest of the industry may not even be able to provide all the rides once offered by the All Resort Group, Inc. companies since the firm’s footprint was so large. There have not been publicized problems with capacity at the opening of the ski season, but that period typically does not draw lots of visitors from outside of Utah who are more apt to need the services of a transportation company. Some of the busiest times of the winter are fast approaching, however. The transportation industry normally hums during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The jammed Sundance Film Festival in January is also a crucial stretch for the industry.
The closure’s emotional toll was displayed at the Marsac Building a week afterward as a former All Resort Group, Inc. executive addressed Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council in an unscheduled appearance, describing what transpired at the company. Alicia Petersen Vernon’s voice cracked several times as she spoke to the elected officials. The former director of business development, Petersen Vernon said she felt “as though I’ve made promises and I’ve let people down, due to, of course, no direct choice of my own.” She said the industry needed to cooperate to ensure the transportation needs of Park City are met during the ski season. She was attempting to reach All Resort Group, Inc. clients who booked transportation prior to the closure. The mayor thanked her for displaying integrity in his brief comments.
“All of us are hurting with you. Because we know what this means to you personally. We know what this means to your employees,” Thomas told Petersen Vernon.
‘Going once. Twice. Sold’
Much of the attention on this Monday morning in the building along Kearns Boulevard is on Lot No. 2, but the people in the room also have a chance to pick up other segments of the All Resort Group, Inc. business. Lot No. 1, involving the Lewis Stages part of the firm, is sold for $3,000 in brief bidding. The auction for Lot No. 4, encompassing websites and more than 30 company names, including All Resort Express, is one of the others that turns competitive. Miller opens the contest at $10,000 but does not receive a bid at that figure, opting to then cut the starting number in half. The people push the bidding higher, soon surpassing the $10,000 Miller sought at the start. The winning bid is $20,000.
Other lots, like one that would allow the auction winner to assume the lease at the Kearns Boulevard office space and another that involved a lease of property in Las Vegas, are withdrawn after no one enters a bid. Still others, such as a transportation license issued for operations in Las Vegas, fetch just $1,000. The auction is the first of four tied to the All Resort Group, Inc. bankruptcy. Another would be held in Park City the next day and include furniture, fixtures and office supplies. The others would be staged in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas to sell off the All Resort Group, Inc. fleet of vehicles. This first auction in Park City is the critical one, encompassing the core businesses of All Resort Group, Inc.
The people in the room remain fixated on Lot No. 2, clearly desiring the Park City Transportation segment of All Resort Group, Inc. over the other lots on the block this morning. Miller is correct in his prediction that the bidding would hit $25,000. It reaches $25,000, the number he sought to move the auction forward, just more than a minute after he asks for that amount. At $25,500, Miller tells the bidders Lot No. 2 is worth more to them than that. A bid pushes the number up another $500.
“We going higher or not?” Miller asks the people in the room. “The bid is at $26,000 to bidder No. 103.”
His somewhat muted encouragement is successful. Someone enters a $27,000 bid, starting another run on the lot. The number hits $30,000 shortly, soon reaching $40,000 and then $41,000. One of the bidders, clutching a phone to check with executives as the competition again intensifies, apparently receives the go-ahead for a $42,000 bid. The woman with the phone, who is a representative of a Phoenix company called The Driver Provider, and a man from another firm are effectively left to bid against each other as the others in the room, outpriced, are resigned to watching the contest for Lot No. 2. The two raise each other repeatedly, first at $1,000 intervals and then at $500 bursts. The man takes the bidding out of the $40,000s.
“We’re at $50,000. Bidder No. 103 has the bid of $50,000,” Miller announces.
The Driver Provider representative suddenly pushes the number to $55,000. The man responds with a $56,000 bid as they go back and forth well into the $60,000s. The man ultimately enters a bid of $69,000. The woman, still holding the phone, adds $1,000 to the offer. The man contemplates the dollar figure for a few seconds before gesturing he is done. The others in the room do not re-enter the bidding once the number reaches $70,000, 14 minutes after Miller set the $1,000 opening price.
It is one of five lots The Driver Provider wins at the auction. The company, which has operated in Utah for nearly two years, spends $100,000 on the acquisitions. The other bidders spend just $5,500 combined. The core assets of All Resort Group, Inc., a towering figure in the Park City transportation industry just months before, fetch a total of $105,500.
“Now, all of you quiet folks, somebody going to bid now? We have a $70,000 bid from bidder No. 105, correct?” Miller says just before accepting The Driver Provider offer. “Going once. Twice. Sold, Lot No. 2, for $70,000 to bidder No. 105.”
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