Developers ‘salivating’ as Talisker lands head to auction |

Developers ‘salivating’ as Talisker lands head to auction

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

A lineup of Park City-area developers, attorneys and, likely, onlookers is expected to descend on the 3rd District Court building at Silver Summit on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

One of the most highly anticipated real estate and development events of the year is scheduled to unfold that morning, starting at 10 a.m., as the Summit County Sheriff’s Office auctions off a patchwork of Talisker corporate family holdings. The auction, known as a sheriff’s sale, was ordered as part of a large foreclosure case brought by Wells Fargo. The sheriff’s sale involves undeveloped parcels in Tuhaye, residential lots in the Empire Pass subdivision of Red Cloud, other pieces of ground in Empire Pass and undeveloped land in Summit County.

It is rare for such a large portfolio to be put up for auction in a local sheriff’s sale. The Talisker corporate family amassed large land holdings in the Park City area over the past decade, including ground that for decades was held by United Park City Mines. There is significant development potential on pieces of the land that will be on the block during the sheriff’s sale.

Developers in Park City or with ties to the area are considering options as the auction approaches. Research is continuing with less than a week before the bidding. Some speculate that Wells Fargo itself will take control of the parcels through what is known as a credit bid. In that sort of situation, the bank will bid the amount owed and the others participating in the sale would need to beat that figure. The auction could end quickly if that is the case as the others opt not to outbid the lender.

A recent sheriff’s sale in Wasatch County involving other pieces of ground tied to the case ended with a credit bid. The Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office said an attorney for Wells Fargo entered a $35 million credit bid on behalf of the bank during the Oct. 29 sale. Nobody else bid, according to the Sheriff’s Office there. The auction drew between 20 and 25 people.

Joe Wrona, a Park City attorney who is heavily involved in development matters, said several of his clients are interested in the auction in Summit County. He declined to identify them but said they include local, national and international figures. They are each interested in acquiring some but not all of the land that will be auctioned, he said. Each of the clients is interested in different parcels that are part of the auction, Wrona said.

"The land has been bottled up and held captive by Talisker," Wrona said, explaining that the Talisker corporate family controlled the properties but lacked the resources to press ahead with development.

He said there are opportunities for additional real estate development in the Park City area as Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts prepares to debut the largest ski resort in the United States by linking PCMR and the terrain that once operated as Canyons Resort into a single property.

Wrona described the upcoming auction as one of the most important real estate and development events in years, ranking it with the Vail Resorts acquisition of PCMR and the Talisker corporate family’s own move into the Park City market with Canyons Resort. Park City is "on the brink of becoming the most exciting mountain resort destination in America," Wrona said.

"I think developers are salivating for these lands," he said.

The land that is scheduled to be part of the sale was the collateral on loans dating to 2010. Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit against a series of Talisker corporate family entities in February on behalf of itself and another lender, claiming the loans were not repaid as required. Wells Fargo secured a $165.9 million judgment against the Talisker side in the spring, leading to the sheriff’s sale. The Talisker Land Holdings, LLC acreage underlying most of the PCMR ski terrain is not involved in the Wells Fargo case or the auction. That land was central to a lawsuit between Talisker Land Holding, LLC and the former owners of PCMR that led to the sale of PCMR to Vail Resorts.

A developer who has worked extensively in Park City, Rory Murphy, anticipates attending the auction as a potential buyer. He said there will be interest "certainly locally, probably regionally, anyone’s guess nationally." Murphy said he is interested in unspecified parcels that are part of the auction. He once was a United Park City Mines executive and was involved in the internal planning and then the government approval process for most of the parcels involved in the auction. Some of the land has "a lot of intrinsic worth," Murphy said.

"At least some of the properties are adjacent to ski areas and have already been entitled," Murphy said, adding, "It would take much deeper pockets than mine to tackle the whole thing."

Park City