Talisker wins round in battle for The Canyons
Officials at Talisker Corp. say they will close a deal with American Skiing Co. to purchase The Canyons resort in Park City after a district court judge in Denver denied a request from Vail Resorts, Inc. to block the high-profile sale.
ASC Chief Executive Officer B.J. Fair, who expects to close the sale in 2007, said The Canyons will open for the winter season on Nov. 17.
The 8-page decision issued late Friday by Judge R. Michael Mullins "represents a sweeping victory for Talisker and ASC," a prepared statement from Toronto-based Talisker Corp. states.
"We are pleased with this ruling in favor of both Talisker and ASC," Talisker Chief Executive Officer Jack Bistricer said. "Since 2000, Talisker has been developing and operating resort communities in the Park City and Deer Valley areas and this important ruling will allow us to move forward and complete our acquisition of The Canyons."
The ruling "scolded" officials at Vail, according to Bistricer.
"This case fundamentally concerns a free market competition between businesses for an economically promising opportunity," the ruling states. "Talisker prevailed, not as a result of any wrongdoings alleged by Vail, in that competition by offering what ASC considered to be a superior deal."
In July, the embattled American Skiing Co., which has gone out of business, announced its intention to sell The Canyons to Talisker for $100 million. A bitter bidding war continued when Vail subsequently offered more than $110 million for ASC’s only remaining ski resort.
In his ruling, the judge dispensed with Vail’s allegations and "went on to articulate further and independent reasons to deny Vail’s petition, stating that Vail’s alleged injuries are too speculative, that Vail cannot show a danger of real, immediate and irreparable harm, and for other reasons Vail’s motion for preliminary injunction must be denied," according to Talisker.
Meanwhile, an attorney for American Skiing Company praised the Oct. 19 ruling in a press release Monday.
"As a party that has not been accused of any wrongdoing in this matter, we are very pleased with the [court’s] decision to allow the sale of The Canyons to go forward. This ruling from the [court] is a first step toward a great future for the resort under Talisker’s ownership," said Foster Stewart Jr., general counsel for American Skiing Company. "We will continue to work closely with Talisker to satisfy all remaining conditions to the closing of our sale."
Though disappointed, officials at Vail, who have reportedly spent $2 million on the litigation, vowed to continue their quest to acquire The Canyons.
"We will continue to pursue our legal rights related to this matter," Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz said in a prepared statement.
Land on which The Canyons is operated is leased to ASC by Wolf Mountain Resorts Managing Partner Kenny Griswold, who claims he must consent before the lease can be transferred to a different owner.
Griswold said "we have high hopes that Vail will prevail."
"Wolf Mountain will vigilantly defend their contractual rights as landlord. Among them is the right to require prior operating experience, sufficient financial stability and numerous other specific requirements None of which Talisker has fulfilled," Griswold said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
An injunction could have spared ASC and Talisker "a lot of embarrassment," he said.
Following the announced sale of The Canyons to Talisker Corp. in July, Vail sued Talisker, American Skiing Company and the Peninsula Advisors investment firm claiming Vail was one day away from purchasing the resort before Talisker conspired with Peninsula principal Mark Robbins to scuttle the deal.
Though Peninsula Advisors may have violated an exclusivity agreement the firm reached with Vail to buy the resort, "Vail has no contractual right under the [exclusivity agreement] to acquire [The Canyons,]" the ruling states.
"ASC was not a party to the [exclusivity agreement] and is not [compelled] by that agreement to negotiate with Vail or anyone else," according to the judge’s decision on the request for a preliminary injunction.
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Sales-tax collections in Park City in July beat City Hall projections by a wide margin, providing a key data point that illustrates a nascent economic comeback of sorts from the spring business shutdowns.