Park City Mountain Resort won the latest round in its legal fight with Talisker Land Holdings LLC Wednesday and can argue that it had "first right of refusal" to buy ski terrain adjacent to the historic mining town that is now the subject of a lease dispute.
Summit County's 3rd District Judge Ryan Harris ruled in favor of PCMR's motion to broaden its 2011 complaint against Talisker. PCMR now can contend in court hearings that, according to its lease with Talisker, it had the "first right of refusal" to buy the land that is now being sought by Vail Resorts Inc.
The ruling is the latest development in the lawsuit PCMR filed in March 2012 against Talisker after the Canadian-based company informed PCMR that it had failed to meet an April 30, 2011, lease extension deadline on the ski terrain.
According to PCMR's attorney Alan Sullivan, Talisker's agreement with Vail that allows the Colorado-based resort corporation to seek control of 3,700 acres of ski terrain adjacent to Park City violates the 1971 lease agreement between PCMR and United Park City Mines, which was purchased by Talisker.
This spring, Talisker announced that Canyons Resort would be operated by Vail for $25 million per year. Talisker also acknowledged that Vail would litigate the case against PCMR with the potential, depending on the legal outcome, that Vail could control ski acreage at PCMR.
Talisker "basically sold the land [that PCMR leases] to Vail," Sullivan said. "Vail has the right to collect rents ... and unilaterally sell the property. ... It has all the indications of ownership."
That deal should have been offered to PCMR first, according to the lease agreement, Sullivan said.
Attorneys for Talisker and Vail, however, hold that the lease Sullivan referred to was null and void when PCMR executives missed the April 30, 2011, lease renewal deadline.
John Lund, who represents Talisker, could not be reached for an interview. But he did release this prepared statement:
"The judge granted PCMR's motion to amend its complaint. We respect the judge's ruling today and we understand that PCMR has the right to file additional claims. This claim is completely without merit and we are confident we will prevail on it as well."
The upshot of Wednesday's ruling, Sullivan said, is that PCMR, through the discovery process, can now delve into the negotiations between Talisker and Vail that led to the agreement that gives Vail operations control of Canyons Resort and the potential to operate a ski resort next door at what is now PCMR.
"We now get to include the history of negotiations between Vail and Talisker to see what happened," Sullivan said. "It's an important step forward [for PCMR]."