Firms battle for control of The Canyons | ParkRecord.com

Firms battle for control of The Canyons

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The fight for ownership of The Canyons between Talisker Corp., and Vail Resorts, Inc., continued in a Denver courtroom March 26.

At issue is whether Toronto-based Talisker conspired with Park City businessman Mark Robbins to scuttle a deal Vail had to purchase The Canyons from the defunct American Skiing Company, former owner of the resort.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Talisker Corporation, Talisker Canyons Finance Company, American Skiing Company, The Canyons and Peninsula Advisors, a firm Robbins headed.

"This case involves a blatant conspiracy by Peninsula and Talisker to thwart Vail’s ability to obtain extremely valuable and unique rights to own, develop and operate The Canyons ski resort and surrounding real estate in Park City," the 23-page complaint Vail filed July 27, 2007, states.

Vail officials insist they had negotiated an exclusive right to buy the resort before Talisker went behind Vail’s back to negotiate its deal to acquire The Canyons.

In May 2007 Vail entered into an agreement with Robbins and Wolf Mountain Resorts Managing Partner Kenny Griswold, who controls substantial land at the resort, to purchase The Canyons from the embattled American Skiing Company for about $110 million, according to the lawsuit.

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"Under the term sheet, Vail would be the operator of the resort and the master developer of The Canyons," Vail’s complaint and jury demand states.

Vail agreed to partner with Peninsula Advisors because Robbins had supposedly reached a deal to obtain land from Griswold, and the resort from American Skiing Co., the lawsuit states.

"The partners contemplated that two limited liability companies would be formed," states Vail’s complaint about the business relationship. "The [Wolf Mountain land] and the development rights to the [Wolf land,] acquired in the proposed [resort] acquisition, would be contributed into one limited liability company, in which Vail would have a 50 percent interest and be named the master developer, while Wolf and Peninsula would share the remaining 50 percent interest."

But Robbins violated the agreement by negotiating a separate transaction with Talisker chief Jack Bistricer, who later purchased the resort from American Skiing Co., the lawsuit states.

Officials at Talisker declined to comment for this story. Robert Blume, an attorney for Vail, also declined to comment about the case when reached Thursday.

The Canyons Managing Director Mike Goar did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Robbins did not attend the March 26 hearing in the Vail case in Denver.

In a written statement sent to The Park Record, Robbins acknowledged he is the subject of a civil bench warrant in a separate fraud-related case in Salt Lake City.

"I have been traveling extensively on business," Robbins said in the e-mail sent to the newspaper.

Attorney Jeffrey M. Jones, who has represented Robbins in the past, would not comment about his whereabouts when reached Thursday at his office in Salt Lake City.

"I don’t represent [Robbins] in any of the litigation relating to Vail or Talisker or Park City," Jones said.

A judge could issue a ruling this week on some aspects of the case in Denver District Court.

"Peninsula and Talisker secretly conspired to steal the opportunity to purchase The Canyons and [Wolf Mountain] land from Vail," attorneys for Vail claim in legal filings. "Peninsula and Talisker have unjustly enriched themselves by their wrongful acts."

Vail’s claims include breach of contract and fiduciary duty, interference with contractual relations, conspiracy and constructive trust.