Fight for resort escalates | ParkRecord.com

Fight for resort escalates

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The defendants named in a new lawsuit at The Canyons include a slew of officials at American Skiing Company, Talisker and the Peninsula Advisers investment firm.

The 77-page case filed Dec. 27 in 3rd District Court in the Snyderville Basin is Wolf Mountain Resort Managing Partner Kenny Griswold’s latest attempt to stop ASC, the parent company to The Canyons, from selling the ski resort to Talisker.

Griswold owns much of the land at the resort, which he leases to The Canyons.

Peninsula Advisors sued Wolf Mountain last summer claiming Griswold broke a promise to sell his land at The Canyons to the company for about $115 million.

But in a lawsuit filed in superior court in California, Griswold claimed that Peninsula and Talisker committed fraud by negotiating behind his back during the talks. A judge, however, dismissed that lawsuit in December.

Officials at Peninsula Advisers, who claim they agreed to purchase about 2,000 acres Griswold owns at The Canyons, are suing Wolf Mountain for $16 million in damages.

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Peninsula, Wolf Mountain and Vail Resorts, Inc. reportedly agreed to form a joint venture to purchase The Canyons, and Vail would own 50 percent of the new resort.

"Throughout May 2007, Wolf Mountain, Mr. Griswold, and their attorneys worked diligently with Peninsula and its attorneys to finalize documents for the Vail deal," according to Griswold’s counterclaim against Peninsula. "It gradually became clear to Wolf Mountain, however, that Peninsula could not meet even the vastly reduced financial obligations required to close the Vail deal."

Griswold has "been the victim of a long-standing and wide-ranging attempt by numerous individuals and their associated companies and partnerships to deprive Wolf Mountain of the economic benefit of its ownership of the land underlying [The Canyons]," the new counterclaim states.

Among the defendants named in the case are Peninsula principal Mark Robbins, Park City real-estate agent Paul Benson, Talisker chief Jack Bistricer, American Skiing Co. President and Chief Executive Officer William J. Fair, ASC chairman of the board Steven B. Gruber and the Oak Hill Capital Partners private-equity firm.

Griswold operated the Wolf Mountain resort in Park City until the embattled American Skiing Co. approached him in the late 1990s about leasing them his land to form The Canyons.

But ASC, which is in the process of dissolution, announced its plans to sell The Canyons to Talisker last summer.

Talisker competed with Vail and won a bidding war to purchase The Canyons last year, officials at American Skiing Company say.

But Peninsula Advisers violated an exclusivity agreement with Vail and Wolf Mountain when Robbins switched camps to side with Talisker in the feud, attorneys for Wolf Mountain Resorts claim.

"Bistricer and Robbins developed a scheme whereby they would both attempt to control the ski resort, and if Robbins was ultimately successful, he would flip or secretly transfer the development or joint venture rights to [Talisker]," states the lawsuit Wolf Mountain filed Thursday.

The new case details ASC’s rocky financial history, which drove the publicly traded company out of business and left common shareholders with nothing.

Meanwhile, a trial that could happen in January in the Snyderville Basin could determine whether Talisker is able to close The Canyons deal.