Today in New West news: judge orders Yellowstone Club founder pay $286 million to creditors, U.S. Forest Service proposes “cultural shift,” and living in an Idaho shipping container.
Earlier this year, we reported that Yellowstone Club founder had been found guilty of mismanaging funds—burning through a $286 million loaned to the ultrarich getaway and squandering it for personal use—and could be responsible for paying it all back. Now, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports, Blixseth will have to pay it all back:
The order Wednesday from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher is the latest turn in a yearslong hunt for assets of Timothy Blixseth, the founder of the Yellowstone Club, a private ski and golf resort near Big Sky with an elite group of members including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Blixseth diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from a 2005 Credit Suisse loan to the club, using the money to buy jets, yachts and luxury properties around the globe. His ex-wife received the club as part of their divorce settlement in 2008 and it went bankrupt within months after its huge liabilities were uncovered. The club later emerged from bankruptcy under new ownership.
Blixseth said Thursday via email that he had no comment on the $286 million judgment. He is now representing himself in the case and said in a court filing last week that blame for the club’s bankruptcy should be shared by Credit Suisse, which he claimed unfairly enticed him into accepting a reckless loan.
Kirscher agreed with that claim in 2010, when he issued a reduced, $41 million judgment against Blixseth. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in July, saying Credit Suisse’s wrongdoing paled against Blixseth’s and he should have to relinquish his “ill-gotten gains.”
Credit Suisse spokeswoman Nicole Sharp declined comment Thursday.
The trustee for the club’s creditors has recovered only $141.07 from Blixseth despite a string of multi-million judgments against him in Montana and California courts.
Meanwhile, according to the Denver Post, the U.S. Forest Service is hoping to set of a “cultural shift” within the agency to get more people interest in visiting forestlands:
The agency’s top recreation officials Wednesday gathered at the REI flagship store in Denver with dozens of outfitters, guides and outdoor-industry leaders to discuss the transformation of the 111-year-old agency.
The Forest Service last year began exploring how it could draw more newcomers to public lands. The agency found it would need a cultural shift, transitioning toward using Forest Service staff and upgraded technology to enhance the visitor experience and enable more use.
“We have a strange tendency of gearing toward ‘no’ than gearing toward ‘yes,’” said Tinnelle Bustam, the Forest Service’s assistant director of recreation. “We want to pivot from ‘no’ and pivot toward ‘yes.’”
Several dozen permit holders — rock climbing, mountain biking and rafting guides, university outdoor programs, climbing clubs, inner-city outdoor groups, hunting and fishing outfitters, dude-ranch owners — cheered the proposed transformation of an agency that has caused them many headaches over the years.
The Forest Service’s permit-system revamp stems from a two-year effort by the Outdoor Access Working Group, a loosely knit collective of about 40 outdoor industry partners. The group pleaded for an overhaul of the recreation special-use permit system to provide opportunities to inner-city youth and minorities, and lure other new visitors to public lands.
U.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak in June announced the first steps toward changing the way special-use recreational permits are issued. Outdoor recreation on public lands contributes $13 billion to the national economy and supports 205,000 jobs, many of those based in rural economies.
Finally, according to the Idaho Statesman, developer David Herman is working on a 17-home subdivision in Garden City, built from disused cargo shipping containers. Herman says he has 37 people interested in living in the subdivision, and previously told the Statesman in February he expected the subdivision to be finished by the end of the summer. However, no construction has begun, according to Herman:
Herman said he spent months working on some last infrastructure issues with city officials, then discovered mortgage lenders who were amenable to the project last year had cooled on the idea of shipping container houses.
He learned that, he said, when one buyer tried to pre-qualify for a loan.
“She had her lending institution contact me,” Herman said. “He said ‘We just don’t have any appetite for that housing model.’”
That was a bit of shock, he said, as lenders had previously approached him.
The development is now on “hiatus” until Herman can sort out what’s going on with the lenders and the market. But he remains committed to getting it built.
The plan approved by the city calls for a single row of 17 homes on a 1.2-acre site on Remington Street, next to the racetrack at the fairgrounds. Each house would made of four shipping containers (two sets of side-by-side containers).
The anticipated sale price for each home is about $152,000.
“It’s going to move forward,” Herman said. “I feel obligated, morally and ethically. I don’t want to go back [to the city] and fight the battle with them and say, ‘Gee whiz, we’re going to build apartments.’ We’d start over at square one. It’s not my desire to do that.”