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Peak House affected by Priceline’s flat line?

Allyn Harvey

Maybe Richard Braddock used the services of Priceline.com to wiggle out of his three-week, $338,625 commitment over the holidays to rent the Peak House.Braddock, chairman of the beleaguered Internet company, must have done something, because he and his wife, Susan, were no-shows at the former home of Viktor Kozeny. But the house has been occupied anyway.Aspen’s exclusive and notorious Peak House, the home at the top of the road that climbs up Red Mountain, has reportedly been quietly occupied through the holidays by members of the Soros family, who owe their good fortune to billionaire investor and currency speculator George Soros. But as big a splash as the Soros family can make (Fortune Magazine estimated earlier this year that George is worth $4 billion), the real question is what happened to Braddock?Was it a family illness, as one staff member of the Peak House told The Aspen Times? Was it financial illness resulting from Priceline.com’s spectacular dive in the stock market from more than $104 a share last spring to about a dollar a share last week? Or was he simply cursed by the house that is known to be the sight of one of Aspen’s greatest swindles of all time?The Peak House is the locale where Kozeny wined and dined Aspen’s wealthiest residents at a Christmas bash in 1997, and apparently conned many of them out of much of the cash netted in his $450 million scam to purchase controlling interest in some of Azerbaijan’s richest oil fields.Its amenities, according to reports in Fortune Magazine, include five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, two swimming pools and a 15-car garage. There is a suite of rooms for a “female companion,” a cognac chaise that was hand-sewn from 33 alligator skins and an ivory collection purportedly worth $2 million.As far as some of the investors can tell, according to court records and published reports in Fortune, Kozeny, a Czech native, spent most of the money on himself and on homes in Aspen, London and the Bahamas, where he’s presently believed to be holed up. Little of it apparently went to the purchase of drilling rights or any other means of extracting oil wealth from the former Soviet republic.He’s currently being sued by a number of big players in world finance, including the hedge fund Omega Advisors and insurer A.I.G. Inc. Kozeny faces legal challenges in courts throughout the world, including Denver and London.The Peak House and many of Kozeny’s other properties and companies have been frozen by courts around the country and around the world. Actually, frozen might not be the best word for the Peak House.According to Heidi Houston, a partner in Houston & O’Leary Real Estate, which manages the Peak House, it is a hot rental property. “It’s rented all the time. It’s a very busy house,” Houston said.And very expensive. Although Houston couldn’t say what Soros is actually paying each night for the home, she said the off-peak season price is about $175,000 a month. A Peak House staff member said the home is mostly rented by three or four different groups.That’s a sweet deal compared to the $338,625 Braddock planned to pay for three weeks, a rental amount that worked out to $18,505 a day.As the boss of the company that many say symbolizes all of the greed and excess and fantasy that stoked the Internet stock boom of the last several years, Braddock came under fire for his Christmas vacation plans.”I know why he’s not here,” speculated one resident of Red Mountain who keeps an eye on the Peak House. “He’s chairman of a company that’s about to be delisted from the stock exchange. The stock’s fallen more than $100 in just a few months.”


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