Posts Tagged Denver
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.
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Vail, CO Colorado
Judge Christopher S. Sontchi punted the case to Colorado, where it landed before Judge Bruce Campbell in Denver’s federal bankruptcy court.
“The judge made the determination that this is where Cordillera’s past, present and future members are, so this where the case needs to be,” said Cheryl Foley, one of the lead plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit against Wilhelm and the Wilhelm Family Partnership.
Campbell held a status conference Friday afternoon to figure out what he has in front of him.
“Everything filed in Delaware has to be moved here,” Foley said.
Wilhelm’s Cordillera Golf Club LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month in Delaware, where the company is chartered.
“The Delaware judge’s ruling was meant to create an opportunity for meaningful discussions toward resolution between the club ownership group and its adversaries,” said Chris Celentino, the bankruptcy attorney representing Cordillera Golf Club. “I think the impetus is to encourage the debtor’s adversaries to take a more positive view toward working with the club to reach a productive resolution.”
In a related criminal matter, District Court Judge Frederick W. Gannett postponed Friday’s contempt of court hearing against Wilhelm. The hearing is tentatively set for Aug. 6 to 8.
Celentino and others with Cordillera have said the litigation against Wilhelm stems from a small and vocal minority.
But according to court documents, 623 people are eligible to be part of the group suing Wilhelm; 610 are officially in, and 13 have opted out.
It was 609 until Thursday, when one more person joined the class-action lawsuit.
“That’s not my definition of a small group of people. Characterizing this as a small group of unhappy members is delusional,” Foley said.
The Delaware bankruptcy trustee appointed a committee representing the unsecured creditors. That committee includes six club members, Foley among them, and two people from trade organizations.
“The bank and debtor have agreed to an interim financing agreement to provide more time to work out a long-term solution that will enable the club to restore itself,” Celentino said.
Wilhelm and the Wilhelm Family Partnership filed bankruptcy the day a $12.7 million loan was due to Alpine Bank. The bank has agreed to extend credit through the summer.
The Wilhelms and some Cordillera Club members have been locked in litigation for more than a year.
Last spring, Wilhelm promised to open all four Cordillera golf courses but opened only the Valley course and laid off dozens of workers. Some of the members — now 610, to be exact — sued him in a class-action lawsuit saying opening only the one course violated the membership agreement.
Their lawsuit asks that the $8 million in 2011 dues be repaid and that all the membership deposits be refunded — that could total $108 million.
Wilhelm sued them for $96 million, claiming they were trying to drive him out so they could take over.
Last week, the Eagle County Commissioners gave initial approval to a new 373 acre development along I-70 at Wolcott. The development is a master planned community that will include 679 new homes, 135,000 square feet of commercial space, the Eco trail system will connect between Wolcott and Edwards, will have 1.5 miles of public river access including a riverside park. There will also be a Arts & Garden District and a Canoe & Kayak Club. The project will also include park land and conservation easements. This project has overwhelming support by the public, and even neighboring HOA’s. Nearly 120 citizens showed up at a public hearing in support of the project. The developers have committed to using only local contractors for the project which will create 1600 jobs, and 800 of those jobs will be permanent after the project is completed. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2013 with realignment of HWY 6 closer to I-70, away from the Eagle River. Build out is expected to be over a 10-15 year period.