Shake-up at Aspen Skiing Co. over alleged retail racket
Aspen Skiing Co. has split ways with the managing director of its retail division, Derek Johnson, also a youth football coach and a former city councilman, in the wake of allegations that he sold company merchandise on the auction website eBay, according to multiple individuals knowledgeable of the matter.
“This is a personnel matter and there is an ongoing investigation,” Skico said Monday in a statement in response to an inquiry from The Aspen Times. “It is very painful and personal for those involved, and we will not comment further at this time. This is a tragic situation that affects many people not just in the company but in the community across many levels, and we ask that everyone respects that and refrains from speculation.”
Johnson, 51, struck a similar tone.
“I can confirm my 17 years of employment with the Aspen Skiing Co. has ended,” he said in a phone interview. “I view this as a private employment matter and will not be commenting further at this time.”
Johnson’s exit was part of a shake-up that also included the firing of two employees who worked with him, according to Alan Feldman, an Aspen attorney who has been retained by one of the terminated workers.
“My client had nothing to do with this, and he was not terminated for having anything to do with this,” Feldman said. “Skico agreed he had nothing to do with it.”
Skico told the employee Thursday the dismissal was part of “restructuring for the company,” according to Feldman.
Skico declined to confirm the termination of the two employees.
“An investigation is ongoing,” a company spokeswoman said in an email to a follow-up question from the Times. “We will not be commenting further at this time.”
Less clear, as of Monday, is whether Johnson will face potential criminal charges.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said he was aware of the matter, “but Skico has not reported anything of this nature criminally to my office.”
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra said, “All I can say is we have a case with Skico, and it’s an active case.”
Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan did not return a telephone message seeking comment Monday. Senior Vice President John Rigney, who oversees the firm’s events, strategic operations, mountain food and beverage, and rental and retail division, also did not return a message.
As managing director of Skico’s rental-retail division, Johnson headed Four Mountain Sports and D&E Ski and Snowboard Shops, which Johnson also co-founded.
Aspen Times research shows that an Aspen-based eBay seller called “sportandski” recorded 7,983 transactions since its inception in May 2001. The account was not active Monday, but it has an online history of selling skis, snowboards and bindings. An example of its transactions includes the sale of a brand-new pair of Rossignol skis, with bindings, for $510 on March 11.
One online reviewer of “sportandski” said, “I believe he sells used demo skis from one of the shops in Aspen, CO. Doesn’t have a ton of stock right now, but based on my past experiences, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase from this seller again.”
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Johnson moved to Aspen in 1991, before launching D&E with a partner. The two sold D&E to Skico in 2001.
Johnson served on Aspen City Council from 2009 to 2013. Instead of seeking re-election, he ran for Aspen mayor on a pro-business platform but lost to Steve Skadron.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”