Wolf Mtn. steps out of the way | ParkRecord.com

Wolf Mtn. steps out of the way

Nan Chalat-Noaker and Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Wolf Mountain Resorts and American Skiing Company took a step toward resolving some of their differences Friday. But Wolf Mountain attorney Bruce Moore warns that it just removes one of the hurdles in a complicated effort to turn The Canyons resort over to Talisker.

"It is a mere baby step in resolving all of the disputes between these parties," Moore said.

American Skiing Co., however, paints the late-night agreement in a more positive light.

"With receipt of consent from Wolf Mountain, one of the landlords at The Canyons, the closing of the sale of the resort to Talisker is now expected to occur in the immediate future, most likely during the next several weeks," states a press release from American Skiing.

Talisker also praised the deal.

"Talisker is pleased that Wolf Mountain Resorts has consented to move forward with the purchase of The Canyons. Talisker, together with ASC, will be working diligently over the coming months to complete the acquisition for May 31, 2008," according to a prepared statement from Talisker.

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Lawyers for the parties met with 3rd District Court Judge Robert Hilder in Salt Lake City Friday afternoon and negotiated for about five hours before reaching the agreement.

The settlement was reached days before a lawsuit brought by American Skiing and Talisker against Wolf Mountain was due to go to trial.

At issue was whether Hilder should allow Wolf Mountain Resorts Managing Partner Kenny Griswold, who owns much of the ski terrain at The Canyons, to prevent the resort’s parent company, ASC, from selling The Canyons to the Talisker development firm for $100 million.

"If Talisker can assemble the money necessary to close the transaction by May 31, 2008, and provide the money that Wolf has negotiated as necessary to operate the resort, then Talisker will replace the American Ski Company as the controlling company of the tenant at The Canyons," said Griswold in Wolf Mountain’s press release about the agreement.

Griswold stressed that if Talisker closes the sale, Wolf Mountain would remain landlord at The Canyons.

About 10 years ago, Griswold combined several parcels of land and leased thousands of acres of property so American Skiing Company could form The Canyons.

Griswold emphasizes that he still owns the land.

"Wolf owns the land. It is in my children’s trust. We will be the owner for all eternity," Griswold said in a telephone interview.

Hilder ruled against Griswold when attorneys for Wolf Mountain argued that his consent to transfer the "ground lease" should be withheld because Talisker lacks experience operating ski resorts.

The trial that was slated to begin on Monday could have shown whether Talisker has the money to purchase the resort. Among the lawsuits still swirling around The Canyons, is a claim by Vail Resorts, Inc., that ASC agreed to sell the resort to the Colorado-based resort firm.

Griswold says he prefers Vail because the company is one of the finest resort operators in the world.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit Griswold filed against The Canyons in Summit County claims the company defaulted on the ground lease and Wolf Mountain should be allowed to evict American Skiing Company from the land.

Members of the Osguthorpe family who own property at The Canyons also want to evict the resort for allegedly violating the lease agreement.

The settlement reached Friday allows American Skiing Company to turn its lease and development rights over to Talisker. Specifically, it outlines a set of conditions under which Talisker Canyons Finance Company, a subsidiary of Talisker, would purchase the outstanding capital stock of The Canyons.

Talisker is also bound by the agreement to "contribute $25 million in capital to [The Canyons]."

According to American Skiing Company President and Chief Executive Officer B.J. Fair, Talisker and the existing management at The Canyons are in a strong position to move forward.

"We believe Talisker is a tremendously well respected company and will be an excellent owner and operator of the resort for many years to come. The existing management and staff of The Canyons, combined with the resources and expertise of Talisker, create an exciting future for the resort and all of its customers," says Fair in the press release.