Related WestPac dealmaker quits
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Pat Smith, the dealmaker who led Related WestPac’s quest to purchase nearly all the commercial property in Snowmass Village, stepped down as the company’s president Friday. Smith will remain an investor in the Snowmass company as he pursues other opportunities, company officials announced.
At this point in the company’s progress, Smith said he is better suited to be an investor and owner.
“You know what,” Smith said, “I’m a deal guy. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in my life is putting the deal together. That’s really been my main forte, instead of being in the trenches.”
Smith said he had no immediate plans to move on to another job, but planned to “enjoy life.”
In Smith’s place, the company has promoted Chief Operating Officer Dwayne Romero. In his new role as president and COO, Romero will be responsible for leading all of the company’s business activities in Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley, the company said. Romero will also continue his duties as an Aspen City Council member.
The announcement did not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the company closely. Of late, Smith has taken an increasingly smaller role, at least at town meetings, noted several Snowmass Town Council members.
“I’m not shocked. I think if you had been paying attention for the last several months … he was less and less in the public eye,” said Councilman Reed Lewis.
For the last five months, Romero has taken over Smith’s role as co-presenter to council, noted Councilwoman Markey Butler. Smith wasn’t even present at the last council meeting.
Butler also noted that while several factors may have contributed to the decision, it is not uncommon to have a leadership change as a company transitions from vision to implementation.
“Obviously, there are probably issues around some of the deals that have been made that have been reported in the newspaper,” she acknowledged, referencing two recent lawsuits against Smith in his Brush Creek Estates project in Snowmass. But she believed the leadership change would have happened regardless.
“[Pat] is the type of guy that flies 400 feet above the village and can see how things work…and that’s Pat,” Butler said. “He’s an idea man, he’s very much of a visionary, and I think he brought a lot of good ideas into our community. At the same time, there were some times you were unsure exactly if they were always on plan. And that’s no fault of Pat’s. He just had his platter so very full.”
Related Companies will now serve as the managing partner of Related WestPac, said officials. But Ken Wong, vice chairman of Related Companies, explained that while he will be a little more available, Romero is running the show.
“That’s how we do things,” he said. “There’s one guy in charge. There’s one leader.”
According to Snowmass Mayor Bill Boineau, Related WestPac officials sat down with most council members last week to discuss the management change. Officials were taking advantage of a rare week when the company didn’t have a development proposal before the town and could do that, he said.
With then-partner Jeff Klein, Smith began slowly acquiring property in Snowmass in 2006, under the auspices of Westpac Investments LLC. Purchasing chunks of land at a time with different investors, he acquired the Snowmass Center, the Snowmass Mall, and finally Base Village.
Smith brought New York-based Related WestPac in as a partner with the purchase of Base Village in March, 2007. Related soon became an investor on all three Snowmass acquisitions ” and in 2007, the joint venture also invested in a 180-acre proposed development between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.
Romero, who played key roles in the development of the base of Aspen Highlands and the Residences at Little Nell, joined Related WestPac as chief operating officer in September 2008. According to Wong, he and Smith were looking for someone willing to be president, eventually.
“We said the right guy is the one who will take the first job, but really wants to be president some day,” Wong said.
As president, Romero will have to manage a company with significant assets ” but also serious challenges. The recent economic downturn has had a significant impact on the developer.
In October, it announced it was laying off 25 percent of its work force and delaying three Base Village buildings after losing financing. In January, the developer asked to continue a hearing on proposed changes to the plans for the Snowmass Center, citing the economic downturn. And recently, the developer asked the Garfield County commissioners for a one-year extension on the Colorado Cattle Creek start date, citing the economy.
It does plan to go forward with three projects this summer in Base Village, though the Little Nell Residences Snowmass project still does not have financing.
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