The Daily Beast
Billionaire buys up in the small town of Colorado – and the locals are freaked out
Photo illustration of The Daily Beast / Getty The mountain village of Crested Butte, Colorado, covers less than a square mile, and at an altitude of nearly 9,000 feet it is taller than it is wide. So when a Chicago-based billionaire quietly began buying his historic buildings, residents noted, “I was afraid someone would come in and buy so much commercial property in the community,”
; former Gunnison County Commissioner Jim told Starr to The Daily Beast. . “It had not happened before. We have few owners who own two or three different commercial properties. But the scale of this was greater than what we have seen before. “The billionaire in question is investment banker Mark Walter. An intensely media-deviant figure, CEO of Guggenheim Partners has, according to Forbes, accumulated a net worth of about $ 5.3 billion with little fanfare. His most obvious public move came in 2012, when Walter teamed up with Magic Johnson and several other entertainment figures to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers for a record $ 2.15 billion. Dollars, but Walter’s activity in Crested Butte has attracted a lot of local attention among the population. 4,700. This year alone, Walter bought six commercial properties, including several historic buildings in the center and a family town called Almont, which sits at the intersection of the East and Taylor rivers. Walter terminated the agreements under limited liability companies registered at his Chicago work address “He has been a lot – I would not say ‘secret’ – but certainly not aware of what he wants to do with the buildings,” Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt told The Daily Beast. Real estate agent Eric Roemer reiterated the uneasy feeling: “Nobody really knows what his game plan is.” Zuckerberg Swallows Another Large Part of the Hawaii Beachfront “I have no idea what Mr. Walter plans to do, “Gunnison County author and resident George Sibley said,” and I do not think anyone else does either – possibly including Mr. Walter. ” Among his new investments, Walter acquired a building called the Forest Queen for $ 1.55 million, a commercial property containing a $ 1.85 million spa and tattoo shop. , a restaurant called Wooden Nickel for $ 1.85 million, a health club for $ 1.7 million, an underdeveloped party for $ 5.5 million, and the resort for $ 6.3 million. In all, the new acquisitions totaled more than $ 20 million. Walter did not respond to further requests for comment. This is something of a pattern for him; In a statement to Crested Butte News, local author Mark Reaman described contact with the CEO’s real estate agent to see if he would discuss future plans. “After she was laughing,” Reaman wrote, “she basically indicated that I probably had a better chance of getting Donald Trump to chat with me about Almont.” Even Roemer, who owned wood nickel before Walter bought it, said he had not done so. been able to get any information about the plans. “The only thing we have been told by his representatives is that he is at least with wood nickel interested in continuing the operation as it has been,” Roemer said. “It simply came to our notice then. But he plans to open that business by the end of May. “The purchases left Schmidt somewhat confused, as commercial property in ski towns can provide a difficult economy. Usually, he said, commercial buildings are sold for about three times the price of local housing. But in high-end ski areas, where homes become so expensive, math can make it harder for smaller businesses to make a profit. “You’re going to have to charge way too much for burgers,” he said. “That’s the challenge.” A long-standing question for residents is what Walter will do with the undeveloped lot on the northern edge of town, heading towards the ski slopes. The far-reaching property, known locally as “Sixth Street Station”, was approved for a massive hotel and residential building in 2017. According to Schmidt, it would be the largest hotel in Crested Butte. But it remains unclear whether Walter plans to continue with the construction project. Walter has had a quiet presence in the Crested Butte area for the past decade. He and his wife have owned a home in the nearby town of Mt. Crested Butte since 2009 and in 2011 he bought a commercial complex known as the Grubstake Building for $ 766,700. Grubstake housed a tea house, a cafe, an art gallery and a fishing shop, which Walter has kept active. For a period, the CEO underwent a local permit process to transform the building into a music and dance venue. According to Starr and Schmidt, he later backed the plans over the city’s required one-time payment for street parking. “He did not like the parking fees that we apply to all businesses,” Schmidt said. “Honestly, I was a little surprised that he thought the amount was too large, given what he pays a third string outfielder for the Dodgers.” Some time ago, the town had an advertising slogan: “Crested Butte – what Aspen used to be, and Vail was never.” The joke was that Crested Butte was “the last major ski town in Colorado,” one that had not yet become bought up by even richer outsiders looking for a seasonal stay. But some residents are worried that Walter’s investments could change that. “One of the concerns, of course, is that when people have more of the commercial properties as such, rents tend to increase, making it harder for business owners,” Starr said. “And we have a real serious housing shortage here, so it may eventually exacerbate this problem as well.” But Sibley pointed out that Walter followed a large number of wealthy investors who came to Colorado. “There would not even be Colorado cities if it were not for money from the outside,” he said, referring to some bankers in Kansas who had invested in the ski slopes of Crested Butte and a Texas refinery company that operated a nearby mine. “Before that, of course, it was a coal mining town, and it was essentially a business town for Colorado Fuel and Iron, which is based in Pueblo,” Sibley said. “So it’s always been a wholly owned subsidiary of outsiders.” But Walter’s investment may herald a wave of a new strain of outsiders. “I’ve heard people say, ‘We’ve reached the point where the billionaires are pushing the millionaires out,'” Starr said, “as many of us who have lived here for a while had hoped it would never happen. 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