MISSOULA – Credit Suisse is defending the $375 million loan it made to the now bankrupt Yellowstone Club as a legitimate transaction that reflects standard lending practices used before the recent economic downturn.
Creditors for the broke resort claim the loan was fraudulent. They say Credit Suisse was peddling dangerous loans that relied on faulty projections about revenue and asset’s market value.
Steven Yankauer, a senior officer with Credit Suisse, testified on Tuesday that there was no way the club’s financial demise could have been foreseen, especially considering it was valued at about $470 million even into 2008.
At the time of the loan in 2005, credit markets were so liquid that lenders were clamoring to invest money in the club, Yankauer said.
“Capital was extremely free flowing and available,” he said of investor interest in the ritzy resort for the ultra-rich located in southwest Montana.
Credit Suisse also said it used lending protocols that were common throughout the commercial lending market.
The Yellowstone Club declared bankruptcy in November, after Edra Blixseth took over its ownership from her former husband Tim Blixseth.
The resort’s Chapter ll bankruptcy trial now pits the divorced couple against each other. On one side, stand Credit Suisse and Tim, who claim the loan was legal. And on the other are Edra and a group of creditors, asking the judge to rule the loan should not have to be repaid.
Yellowstone Club attorney Troy Greenfield grilled Yankauer Tuesday about how an international banking group could have overlooked the resort’s serious cash flow problems. He also suggested greed for lending fees in the millions led the firm to look the other way.
Credit Suisse, which made similar loans to five other posh resorts that have since defaulted or declared bankruptcy, received about $7.4 million in fees from the transaction.
Testimony on Monday revealed the Yellowstone Club received only about $38 million from the loan, while $209 million was diverted to Tim Blixseth’s holding company, BGI.
Another $80 million went toward real estate purchases including private estates in Scotland, France and Mexico, according to a forensic accountant who testified Monday on behalf of the club.
Kent Mordy also said an additional $7.5 million went directly to Tim Blixseth.
The mountain resort with a membership including the likes of Dan Quayle and Bill Gates now owes more than $400 million to creditors.
The auction for the club began Wednesday and concludes May 13. An opening bid of $100 million has been offered by Sam Byrne, a club member and managing partner of CrossHarbor Capital Partners of Boston. Tim Blixseth has said he has the money to make a bid of his own and will attempt to buy the club back.
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