Today in New West news: court rules against Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth, 2016’s “Best-Run Cities in America,” and UnitedHeathcare to purchase Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, a court has ruled against Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth, who was sued by creditors for alleged mismanagement of funds. To wit: the suit alleges Blixseth transferred a $286 million loan to club for personal use. And with the latest court ruling, Blixseth could be responsible for paying all of that in damage, according to an attorney representing the Yellowstone Club Liquidating Trust. From the Tribune:
“I think it should be the terminal blow,” Brian Glasser, of Bailey & Glasser LLP, said about Friday’s decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “I don’t think there is any case he has left.”
Blixseth, however, on Monday said he has 90 days to consider an appeal and added the court has sent the matter back to a lower court to reassess.
“You can read (the judgment) as going back up, but it hasn’t yet,” he said.
Glasser said this latest ruling by 9th Circuit judges Alex Koszinksi, Richard Paez and Marsha L. Berzon brings the issue to “finality.”
“At some level (Blixseth) should quit saying there is a giant conspiracy against him,” he said, adding many courts have rejected that claim.
Courts previously ruled that Blixseth fraudulently transferred a $286 million loan to the club for his personal use. The Yellowstone Club’s creditors are seeking more than $250 million from Blixseth. The Big Sky private ski and golf resort, whose members include Bill Gates and former Vice President Dan Quayle, emerged from bankruptcy under new ownership in 2009.
Blixseth, 66, was released from jail earlier in July after spending 15 months at the Cascade County Detention Center for civil contempt of court.
Glasser said bankruptcy judge U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher had earlier reduced $286 million sought against Blixseth to $40 million and that Blixseth had appealed that judgment. He said the court of appeals reinstated it to $268 million, saying Kirscher did not use appropriate legal doctrine in reaching his decision. Kirscher had found parties involved were equally at fault to reduce charges.
“The lenders may have been reckless in issuing their loans,” the 9th Circuit found, “but such wrongdoing is not comparable in degree or kind to Blixseth’s wrongdoing. Blixseth defrauded the club entities and their minority members, massively enriching himself; breached fudiciary duties and then constructed barriers to recovery of his ill-gotten gains but subsequent fraudulent transfer in MSA (marital settlement agreement) transfers.”
Meanwhile, looking at the region as a whole, WalletHub has released a new study outlining “2016’s Best-Run Cities in America,” and the results are encouraging for New Western states. Indeed, Boise, Idaho snagged the first spot, followed by Nampa, ID; Provo, Utah; and Missoula, Montana. Further, Billings, MT pulled in at seventh place. You can see a map of Wallethub’s findings below.
In analyzing what makes a city well-run, WalletHub compiled six metrics, all weighed equally: Financial Stability, Education, Health, Safety, Economy, and Infrastructure & Pollution. The study also looked at “Overall City Services” and “Total Budget Per Capita.”
There were some especially interesting findings, which we’ll relate below:
• Casper, Wyoming had the “Lowest Long-Term Debt Outstanding Per Capita,” followed closely by Boise, with Billings coming in at number 5.
• Casper and Cheyenne scored third and foruth (respectively) for “Lowest Violent-Crime Rate.”
• Casper also scored well in “Highest Average Annual Household Income,” taking fourth place.
• Billings snagged the number one spot for “Least Air Pollution.”
Not all the findings were so rosy. Denver, CO, for instance, placed 131st overall, and dinged heavily in several categories. Denver as a whole, for instance, had some of the “Highest Long-Term Debt Outstanding per Capita,” and also had one of the lowest high school graduation rates. Even a big winner like Nampa lagged in one category: coming in at 149th place, Nampa has some of the least amount of hospital beds per capita.
Speaking of hospitals and healthcare, according to the Denver Business Journal, Grand Junction, CO-based Rocky Mountain Health Plans (an independent insurer) is being bought by insurance titan UnitedHealthcare. The move is dramatic, given the contrast in sizes between the companies. RMHP, for instance, is a nonprofit who employs 400 people and has around 240,000 enrollees. UnitedHealthcare, meanwhile, operates nationwide, with almost 900,000 enrollees alone in the Centennial State. From the DBJ:
Steve ErkenBrack, RMHP’s CEO, told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel newspaper that the sale will help his company boost capital so it can continue as a “sustainable health insurance provider.”
He said RMHP plans to continue as a “community player” and its products and services will not change.
The sale to for-profit UnitedHealthcare — a unit of Minnesosota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) — would mean RMHP would no longer be a nonprofit.
Terms were not announced, although RMHP reportedly is valued at between $35 million and $40 million.
The deal would have to be approved by the Colorado Division of Insurance and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
Insurers nationwide are looking at consolidation and other financial moves amid major shifts in the industry, including those generated by the federal Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Justice Department has gone to court to try to block the proposed $48 billion merger of two of Colorado’s largest health insurers — Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp. — as well as another major tie-up, Aetna Inc.’s planned $34 billion acquisition of Humana Inc., on antitrust grounds.