Realtor sues Ritz-Carlton Club |

Realtor sues Ritz-Carlton Club

Brent Gardner-Smith

Aspen real estate broker and developer Robert Bowden sued the Ritz-Carlton Club Monday, claiming the luxury time-share development at Aspen Highlands broke a contract regarding access to the private slopeside club.

The suit claims that Bowden bought two time-share interests at the new club and also entered into an agreement in which the “Ritz-Carlton agreed to provide the use of the club, pool, lounge and all privileges associated with the Ritz-Carlton Club to Bowden and his assigns on a year-round basis.”

He is asking the court to force the club to grant him privileges, and if it does not, to pay him monetary damages. The Ritz-Carlton Club did not return phone calls.

Bowden first became interested in the club when he bought two lots in the Five Trees development, which offers ski-in, ski-out access to the Highlands ski area.

He plans to build his own house on one lot and is building a spec house on a second lot. Bowden has been running his own Aspen-based real estate and development firm, Bowden Properties, for 10 years.

Bowden said he learned that the Ritz was extending club privileges to those who buy either a townhome or a single-family home that is inside the Highlands Village proper, so he inquired if the club would sell him two year-round memberships to the club. One membership was so his kids could use the new pool in front of the Ritz, a snowball’s throw from the Commonwealth Pub at the base area. The second membership was to be sold along with the ski-in, ski-out spec house in Five Trees.

“They said they don’t sell memberships, but they offered to sell me an interest.”

Bowden paid approximately $170,000 for two ownership interests in the Ritz, which normally allow an owner to come and stay at the club for two-week periods. Ownership interests range between $140,000 to $450,000. If an owner is not staying at the club, then they are not normally allowed day-use access to the club, lounge and pool at the base of Highlands.

By contrast, the new Timbers time-share project at the bottom of Assay Hill at the Snowmass Ski Area is selling day-use memberships along with blocks of time. The Ritz is marketing its 73 time-share condos with the slogan, “Private Club Membership Has Never Been So Privileged.” The lawsuit raises the question, just how privileged is it?

Bowden said he worked closely with the Ritz to specify that his two interests would grant him, and the eventual owner of the spec house, year-round access to the club and its swimming pool. And he got it in writing.

“I couldn’t have been more upfront,” he said. “I realized this was maybe a bit of a small twist.”

It seems, eventually, so did the Ritz.

Bowden said that while the Ritz cashed his check as he went to contract on the two time-share units, the company did not completely execute the contract and informed him that he could not have year-round access to the club.

“I then spent the next three months talking to the group, only to be told there was nothing they could do,” Bowden said. “This lawsuit was the absolute last resort.”

Bowden said he is not the litigious type, having never filed a lawsuit before, but feels that the Ritz led him down a primrose path and then lied to him.

“A time-share concept like this is being sold with a fair number of representations,” he said.”

If they’ll misrepresent themselves to me, they’ll misrepresent themselves to everybody.”

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