Wolf wants Vail
The fight for control of The Canyons could be headed to trial after about 20 lawyers packed a courtroom Monday to hear six hours of arguments.
At issue is whether Park City resident Kenny Griswold should be allowed to stop American Skiing Co., parent company to The Canyons, from selling the ski resort to Talisker.
Land on which American Skiing Company Utah operates The Canyons is leased to the firm by Griswold, who is the managing partner of Wolf Mountain Resorts. A provision in the 1997 lease requires Griswold provide his written consent before the operator of The Canyons can change.
To prevent Griswold’s withholding of consent from affecting the Talisker deal, The Canyons and Talisker Canyons Finance Company sued Wolf Mountain Resorts in Third District Court in the Snyderville Basin.
But Wolf Mountain hasn’t been provided with enough financial information to determine whether the company is the right tenant to replace the embattled American Skiing Company at the resort, Griswold claims.
"We really don’t know who Talisker is," said Michael Homer, an attorney for Wolf Mountain. "Wolf Mountain is relying on a tenant coming in who can perform."
Homer said Wolf is "simply entitled to a lot more financial documents."
But lawyers for The Canyons and Talisker insist Griswold is on a "fishing expedition" seeking information that is not relevant to Talisker’s financial wherewithal.
"This has not been an inquiry," Canyons attorney Daniel Alberstone said, likening Griswold’s investigation to the "Kennedy assassination." "This has been a crusade to kill the (Talisker) deal."
Hilder now must decide on a motion for summary judgment that could allow ASC to close the sale with Talisker with or without permission from Griswold.
"There has already been these fishing expeditions in deep waters and all [Griswold has] collected is a bucket of red herrings," Alberstone said.
Griswold can’t justify withholding his consent, the attorney added.
But Griswold was the victim of "a quick, slam-it-home, dirty deal," Wolf attorney Bruce Moore said.
E-mails obtained by Wolf Mountain show Talisker officials preparing for "war with [Griswold,]" Moore said.
"These are the types of factors that I believe a landlord would be able to take into account," the attorney added.
Wolf Mountain negotiated last spring with the Peninsula Advisors investment firm to partner with Colorado-based Vail Resorts, Inc. to buy The Canyons from ASC.
But, Griswold claims, on the eve of closing that deal, Peninsula officials switched camps to negotiate with Talisker to scuttle the purchase behind Wolf’s back.
"It would be reasonable to object to it," Moore said. "[Griswold] doesn’t know anything about these people."
Still, in the courtroom an attorney for Talisker played a recording of Griswold saying in a voicemail message that Talisker chief Jack Bistricer was his "new tenant."
"Hi buddy! I love this! This is Kenny, it’s Monday, I just returned home from Italy, um, and much to my surprise you’re my new tenant," Griswold said in the message left for Bistricer after ASC announced the Talisker sale. "I love you, baby! Listen Jack, um, I’d love to talk to you I can’t think of anybody I’d rather do business with than you."
But Griswold claimed the message is marked by sarcasm and easily taken out of context. Attorneys for The Canyons and Talisker countered that it constituted consent.
Meanwhile, Griswold said he will not permit Talisker to take control of The Canyons because the firm lacks experience operating ski resorts.
Canyons attorney John Lund countered that Talisker would tap much of the same management team in place at The Canyons today, to run the resort in the future.
"There is always going to be some other reason, all red herrings, to not give consent," Lund said, adding that Griswold has "aggrandized" his role as landlord at The Canyons.
Talisker, which agreed to purchase the resort from ASC for $100 million, will not "run it into the ground," Lund said.
"[Wolf] is a landlord that is raising disingenuous reasons to not consent," Lund said.
Monday the judge rejected a request from Wolf to dismiss the case. But Hilder did not rule on the request for summary judgment from ASC and Talisker that could end the litigation.
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