Vail Resorts offered Tuesday to buy Park City Mountain Resort’s base facilities to resolve the mammoth legal battle between the adjacent Summit County ski areas.
The offer came in a letter Vail CEO Rob Katz sent to John Cumming, PCMR’s CEO, and also distributed to the news media, in response to Cumming’s use of the Park Record newspaper last week to accuse Vail of never making a serious proposal to settle the land-use lawsuit.
So Katz did.
“Vail would be willing to purchase the base and parking facilities from PCMR,” he said, referring to Powdr Corp.’s commercial and residential buildings and parking lots at the foot of the mountain.
No price was mentioned. But Katz dismissed Cumming’s printed assertions that Vail was looking for a “steal,” contending the Denver-based company is willing to pay fair market value — a determination it was also willing to let a third-party appraiser to make.
“If you were willing to sell those assets, we are confident we can reach a fair price for both parties and ensure the continued smooth operation of the resort,” Katz said.
If not, he added, get ready for a fight.
Bring it on, Cumming responded in a statement later Tuesday.
“PCMR is interested in exploring all possible solutions that will preserve the independence of PCMR,” he said. “What we won’t agree to is a Vail takeover. Vail’s domination of the ski market in Summit County would be bad for our community, bad for our guests and bad for our employees.”
Cumming added that “people should not be swayed by Rob’s attempt to try the merits of this case in the press,” contending that several key legal issues will be decided after 3rd District Court hearings April 3 and April 8.
The lawsuit revolves around whether PowdrCorp. failed to make timely renewal of the long-term lease it had from Talisker Corp., which owns Canyons Resort as well as the 2,800 acres of mountainside that make up most of PCMR’s slopes.
Vail, which manages The Canyons and is handling the lawsuit on Talisker’s behalf, says PowdrCorp. missed the March 31, 2011, deadline, then later falsified documents to make it look like it complied in time. PowdrCorp. said its intentions to renew the lease were long understood and that Vail is trying to bully its way into domination of the Utah ski market.
Over the past week, as those key court dates approached and the pace of motion filing picked up, the combatants’ public acrimony did as well.
On March 14, Talisker/Vail filed a document that essentially served as the second eviction notice they were giving to PowdrCorp.
When the Park Record reported on the filing in its March 18 edition, the story contained a statement from Cumming saying, “instead of making threats concerning eviction, Vail should be talking with us about ways to resolve this dispute since, as we’ve said before, eviction of PCMR from the property will leave Vail with land that cannot possibly be used for any economic purpose.
“Without the base and parking facilities, which neither Vail nor Talisker owns, Vail cannot operate a ski resort,” he added.
Not true, shot back Katz.
“There seems to be a concern in the community that if you lose your lease, you could use your base lands to block access to the ski mountain through portal,” the Vail CEO wrote. “… We think it’s important to let folks know that’s not going to happen.”
Katz maintained “there are numerous ways that this terrain can be potentially used for skiing, particularly since the land is immediately adjacent to Canyons and the two can be easily connected with a new chairlift.”
And, he added, “if a court ultimately rules that PCMR’s lease has expired, then Vail will become Talisker’s tenant on that land and it is absolutely our intention to utilize and operate that terrain, which was Talisker’s intent in leasing it to us.”
Katz also reached out to PCMR employees, telling them that if Vail/Talisker prevail in the lawsuit and take over PCMR’s mountain, “our company is willing to hire substantially all of the PVMR employees who are involved with running the resort.”
In the end, Katz appealed to Cumming’s business sense in arguing for PowdrCorp. to accept Vail’s offer.
“Even if you lose your lease to the mountain, you still have a very valuable piece of property,” he said. “But its value comes from the access it allows to the ski mountain. As every realtor and developer in Park City knows, whatever you might want to do on that property, it will be far more valuable if skiers use that land to access the resort.”