By John Mossman
The Denver Post
The Cordillera Golf Club bankruptcy case, shifted from Delaware to Colorado last week, is complicated by litigation between owner David Wilhelm and 610 club members that has gone on for more than a year.
Wilhelm and his management company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection June 26 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where the company is incorporated. The filing came on the same day a $12.7 million loan was due to Alpine Bank of Colorado.
“The (Chapter 11) process will allow the club to operate its ongoing business while it resolves the outstanding conflicts and prepares a plan of reorganization to emerge a healthier company,” Wilhelm said.
The bankruptcy and litigation involve only the Club at Cordillera, not the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, which is a separate entity and remains open for business.
For the second year in a row, Cordillera’s Valley golf course is the only one of the four Cordillera courses open.
One of the largest exclusive golf communities in North America, Cordillera covers 12 square miles in the heart of Colorado’s Vail Valley near Edwards. It consists of three 18-hole courses — designed by Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin and Tom Fazio — and a short course designed by Dave Pelz.
Last spring, Wilhelm promised to open all four golf courses but opened only Fazio’s Valley course and laid off dozens of workers.
Current and former club members sued him in a class-action lawsuit, saying that if he was going to open only 25 percent of the courses, they wanted 75 percent of their dues back.
Members say the Wilhelm Family Partnership collected $8 million in membership dues last year and paid itself almost $1 million while failing to open three Cordillera golf courses, thus violating the membership agreement.
The lawsuit asks that the 2011 dues be repaid and that all of the membership deposits be refunded. Such a payout could total $108 million.
Wilhelm then sued the members for $96 million, claiming they were trying to drive him out so they could take over.
Last week, the case was transferred to Judge A. Bruce Campbell in Denver’s federal bankruptcy court.
Chris Celentino, a bankruptcy attorney representing Cordillera, said Alpine Bank has agreed to extend credit financing through the summer season, allowing “more time to work out a long-term solution that will enable the club to restore itself.”
In a related matter, District Court Judge Frederick Gannett of Eagle postponed a contempt-of-court hearing against Wilhelm based on his failure to provide requested information.
Gannett told the Vail Daily on Wednesday that if Wilhelm’s attorneys want him to recuse himself from the case because of alleged bias, he would do so but only if appropriate legal documents are filed. Gannett is a member of another golf club also in bankrupcty.
John Mossman: 303-954-1479, firstname.lastname@example.org