Cordillera connection made in Miami
Editor’s note: In keeping with a tradition that began with Dick Hauserman’s “Inventors of Vail” and continued with Pete Seibert’s “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” the editors of the Vail Daily plan to serialize Bill Clinkenbeard’s “Cordillera, From the Ground Up,” in weekly installments each Sunday. Bill can be reached at 748-0971 or via e-mail, billclink@comcast..net.
Exxon transferred me from Tokyo to Brussels in 1967. Life had been good in Japan and I left there with a heavy heart.
The Posen Family moved to London in the early 1970s. Felix had left Philipp Brothers and joined Marc Rich Co. The ties between our two families continued and visits across the English Channel were numerous.
The Posen’s London flat was full of exquisite paintings and other objets d’art. Their taste was impeccable. There was often classical music in the home, either recorded or live – Felix and his daughters played the piano. Felix’s mother had been a music teacher, his father a silversmith in Berlin.
Both Jane and Felix were lovers of the theater and I often attended plays and concerts with them in London.
In the mid 1970s Exxon transferred me again – from Brussels to Miami. A few years later, I left Exxon and established a consulting company, “Lee Planning Associates.” We specialized in strategic planning, organizational design and management development.
Our clients were mostly large, multi-national companies and so I continued to travel around the world. I had clients in England and so kept in touch with the Posens often visiting them in London or at their manor in Surrey.
One fateful evening at home in Miami, I was having a drink with my neighbor, Lou Kirk, who asked if I would be interested in making an investment in a real estate project that he was working on with his partner, Les Shapiro, in Colorado. I’d either had too much to drink, or not enough, but I told him to describe the project to me.
Lou and Les met through the men’s clothing business. Les represented a line of men’s clothing and Lou owned a men’s clothing store in Les’ territory. Les and Lou’s Colorado project was a commercial building on Nottingham road in Avon, with the unlikely name of “Vail Building Arts Associates.” There was nothing “artsy” about it.
Anyway, I decided to invest in the project, based only on my friendly neighbor’s belief that this would be a successful project. Also, I was flattered that he always called me “babe,” in true New-York fashion. Lou was a window dresser in New York City before moving to Miami.
In September 1985, I decided to vacation in Colorado. Since my days as a student at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, I’d had a desire to get back, maybe even permanently. I even had more incentive to do so when my daughter, Carol, attended Colorado College, married and settled in Denver. This trip would also give me the opportunity to check on my investment in the Avon project.
When I arrived in Colorado Lou introduced me to Les Shapiro, who was the general partner of the Avon project. Les had an idea that through my international consulting business I must associate with monied people from time to time, which was true.
He explained that he needed a few hundred thousand dollars more to close out the limited partnership and get construction started in Avon. The earthwork had already started, even though not all three building parcels had been closed.
Les also introduced me to Jerry Rea, his partner in the Squaw Creek recreational project. Jerry is an affable, friendly, visionary who has the smarts and patience to “do the deal” professionally. Les is the two-fisted, street- smart, “don’t tread on me” doer. Whether this makes a good team or not, I have never figured out.
Some say opposites attract, but I wonder when the personalities are so different if peace can prevail and the partnership can move ahead. Les and Jerry fell into this category, as did Felix and I. Do opposites attract in the development business? Read on.
Les asked me to tour the land that he and Jerry were planning as a cross-country ski facility. We got in Les’ Land Cruiser, or perhaps it was his Unimog, and headed up a jeep trail entering the land from the old Squaw Creek road.
It was a rough ride and as we were going mostly uphill I could see little ahead of me. At the time, I wondered why anybody would be interested in this property. It was rather dry, with lots of bushes but few trees and no water.
Then we reached the top, and I could hardly believe my eyes. The views to the south and west were absolutely breathtaking. The mountains were in full fall colors and the Sawatch Range to the south and the Gore Range to the east already had snow on them.
It was a scene still etched in my memory and became the centerfold for many marketing brochures. The Lodge at Cordillera sits near the top of that hill today, taking full advantage of those views.
Les and Jerry then proposed that if I could raise money for the project we could form a new partnership and develop more grandiose plans for the project. I had no one in mind at the time, but the idea intrigued me. I poked around the community a little more before returning to Miami and found out that the two principals, Les and Jerry, were “for real,” but nobody knew what they were trying to achieve. A cross-country ski facility? Who was going to buy land that far away from Vail and with only cross-country skiing?
It wasn’t going to be the skiers – they brought their lunch in brown paper bags. Jerry and Les had bigger plans if they could get the financing but I wasn’t sure exactly what those were. here was some talk of a “mountain spa,” but that concept wasn’t clear at the time.
I went back to Miami intrigued, mostly by the beauty of the land. But I had no clear vision of what exactly belonged there, and I had no investors in mind, so I filed the matter away for the time. It wasn’t long before it resurfaced.