Lawsuit claims Hyatt not being fair with Grand Aspen owners | AspenTimes.com
Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

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Lawsuit claims Hyatt not being fair with Grand Aspen owners

A civil case involving a Hyatt Grand Aspen real-estate salesman who claims he was wrongfully terminated after blowing the whistle on what he perceived to be his company's ethical violations recently was transferred from state to federal court.

In a lawsuit, Ian Mullin v. Hyatt Residential Group Inc. — first filed in state District Court on Aug. 9 — the plaintiff Mullin, of Carbondale, alleges that as a licensed real-estate broker in Colorado, he was required by law to "timely submit all purchase offers" to individuals and entities with fractional-ownership interests in units at the Hyatt Grand Aspen.

Mullin became Hyatt's director of sales and marketing for the Aspen location in July 2010. The lawsuit states that after he was employed, Mullin "soon discovered" that Hyatt was not passing along to the owners purchase offers that he had negotiated with potential buyers.

"Once Mr. Mullin discovered that Hyatt was not timely transmitting the offers, he took matters into his own hands, complied with his ethical requirements, and informed those with interests in the Hyatt Grand Aspen of the potential purchase offers his office had received," the lawsuit states.

The suit adds that "just weeks later, Hyatt terminated Mr. Mullin for providing such information to representatives of the owners of the Grand Aspen location, which Mr. Mullin was ethically and professionally required to do."

Essentially, Hyatt terminated Mullin "for his refusal to violate the ethical standards that govern Colorado real-estate brokers, which caused Mr. Mullin injuries and damages," according to the suit.

Mullin excelled in his position, the suit states, despite a severe decline in the national real-estate market. In 2010-11, Mullin increased sales of the Hyatt Grand Aspen fractional-ownership units by more than 50 percent compared with the previous year, the suit claims.

Hyatt "deliberately withheld certain purchase offers from the Hyatt Grand Aspen Ownership Group," the suit states. The Grand Aspen property was Hyatt's most expensive and luxurious property, and purchases at other Hyatt Vacations properties often were lured into the Hyatt system by their ability to use the Grand Aspen property with the points afforded by buying cheaper properties, according to the suit.

"On multiple occasions, the fractional owners (in Aspen) made it known to Hyatt that they did not see any value in being Hyatt Vacations members, and saw the use of the property by other members as a negative," says the suit.

In an answer to the complaint, filed on behalf of Hyatt on Sept. 6 by Los Angeles attorney David Freedman, the company denies Mullin's allegations of wrongdoing with regard to failing to pass along sales information to the Grand Aspen owners. The response to the suit also asks for a jury trial in the matter.

Hyatt's actions with regard to Grand Aspen sales "were committed in the furtherance of legitimate and lawful business purposes," the answer to the lawsuit states.

Hyatt Residential Marketing Corp. also is listed as a defendant in the case, which was transferred to U.S. District Court on Aug. 30. Both companies are registered to do business in Colorado, and their business offices are located in Chicago.

Mullin is represented by attorneys Thomas Neville and Clayton Wire, of Denver.

asalvail@aspentimes.com