W/J may get a new owner | AspenTimes.com

W/J may get a new owner

It appears that W/J Ranch is about to change hands.

Litigation initiated by W/J owner John Musick Jr. against Pitkin County is being delayed until after Dec. 1 in anticipation of a possible sale of the property. The litigation may be defused entirely if the sale materializes.

Sha Cohen, former W/J ranch manager, said his understanding is that the sale will probably take place around Nov. 27. Cohen said Musick must relinquish control of the corporation to avoid foreclosure by Lehman Brothers Holdings. Lehman holds a deed of trust to the property, having received the deed as security on a loan of $13.75 million.

Peter Heinemann, a San Francisco attorney representing the investment firm Lehman Brothers Holdings, would not confirm that the sale is pending. “I’m not at liberty to comment on that,” Heinemann said.

While Cohen said he thinks Musick’s interest in the property will be transferred to Lehman, Jack Reutzel, a Denver attorney representing Musick and W/J, said Friday he believes the ranch is to be sold to a third party. He said, to his knowledge, the sale has not yet occurred.

In 1998, Pitkin County denied Musick’s application to subdivide the 112-acre, McLain Flats ranch and develop 778 units of affordable housing. The county last spring rezoned the property to allow only five houses.

Musick prepared two suits against the county. One was to fight the county’s denial of the subdivision of the property, and the other would contest the downzoning, Reutzel said.

Reutzel said he has postponed filing the brief that would trigger Musick’s subdivision lawsuit until after Dec. 1. He said the purpose of the postponement is to allow completion of the anticipated sale of the property.

“If there is going to be a transaction that takes John out of the picture, everybody would benefit from finding an amicable way to settle this,” Reutzel said.

Musick sold his house at the top of W/J late in summer. Property transfer documents filed with the Pitkin County Clerk’s Office on Aug. 23 indicate Musick’s house at 150 Bullwinkle Circle was sold to Lawrence Woznicki for $4.75 million.

While the house was owned by W/J Ranch, Inc., Cohen said the house was not part of the property used to secure the Lehman loan.

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