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Former Isis owners post a bounty on shameless Swedes

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN The former owners of the Isis Theatre building are taking a cue from the Wild West in an effort to collect an $8.5 million debt from a Swedish media empire.The Isis Group on Wednesday announced it is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information that will help it collect an outstanding court judgment owed to it by Svensk Filmindustri, a division of The Bonnier Group. The reward is part of the Isis Groups beefed-up effort to force Svensk to make good on the debt, which is nearly seven years old and has reached $8.5 million because of interest and penalties.The LLC, which includes Aspen resident Sam Houston, not only issued a press release Wednesday offering blistering remarks about Svensk, it also announced its new website called garnishsvensk.com. The site soon will have a ticker updating the amount of Svensks debt, which is drawing an interest of 8 percent, the Isis Groups attorney said.It looks like a wanted poster, and its an attempt to collect a debt, said Jack Smith of the Denver office of Holland & Hart LLP, in a telephone interview Wednesday. Smith also accused Svensk, which owns the rights to Ingmar Bergmans work, of not showing the late Oscar-winning directors films in the United States because the Isis Group would garnish its royalties.Smith conceded that the methods used to collect the debt are unconventional, but the Isis Group is running out of options. In terms of soliciting information on a website, Ive never heard of this being done, he said. But it has been so difficult to collect this debt. They seem to be shameless and are ignoring the court.Hugh Wise, the Aspen attorney who represented Svensk during its court proceedings here, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. But Smith said Wise withdrew as counsel for Svensk earlier this year.The bad blood between Svensk and the Isis Group stems from a lawsuit filed in December 2000 in Pitkin County District Court. The then-Isis owners had alleged that Svensk had promised it would vouch for Resort Theaters of America, the operator of the Isis at the time, if it backed out of its lease, signed in 1999. Resort Theaters went bankrupt in December 2000 and pulled out of the Isis Theater, prompting the Isis owners to sue the same month, claiming that Svensk was $181,551 in arrears for back rent, in addition to more than 39 months of future rent, which was $59,300 per month, court records show.The case went though a series of the legal ringers first in county district court, where the late Judge T. Peter Craven in July 2003 awarded the Isis owners $6.8 million in damages. It then went to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which upheld Cravens ruling. In December, the Colorado Supreme Court validated both of the lower courts rulings, and determined the debt was $8.5 million. And earlier this year, 9th Judicial District Judge Denise Lynch ruled that Svensk is in contempt of court and fined the company $2,500 a day, according to a press release. The news release also says that because Swedish courts do not recognize U.S. judgments, and because Svensks holding are in Sweden, Svensk has been able to skirt a $6.8 million judgment that has climbed to $8.5 million with costs and interest in spite of the fact that Bonnier, Svensks parent company, recently purchased 18 U.S.-based magazines from Time Warner for over $200 million and boasts annual revenues of over $3 billion.Smith said the Isis Group has only managed to collect $200,000, because Svensk has all but disappeared from the U.S market.Smith said Svensk also has been ordered by Judge Lynch to turn over its entire film catalog, which includes the Bergman films, to the Isis Group. The Isis Theater, located on Hopkins Avenue, currently is operated by Rocky Mountain Cinemas and owned by the city of Aspen. rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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