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Battle over front desk lands owners, property managers in court



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Court documents show that the Whistler Lodging Company — then Powder — filed suit against the owners on June 26, 2000 but the case has yet to go to trial.

The statement of claim indicates that Powder would have had its lease of the front desk automatically renewed for another three years if it had managed to renew enough of its rental management contracts with the individual unit owners. Powder claims that if the strata council hadn’t conspired against the company, it would have secured sufficient contracts.

For the previous five years Powder had management contracts with 174 of the 223 owners. However, Powder lost about 90 owners when the contracts came up for renewal last summer. This meant it did not have enough to hold on to the front desk lease which subsequently expired June 30, 2000.

Powder alleges in its statement of claim that it lost the contracts because Friday, Brown, Sprenkles and Renfro "engaged in an unlawful agreement and fraudulent scheme to injure Powder and its reputation" and interfered with Powder’s rental management contracts.

Their goal, alleges Powder’s legal counsel, was to deliver the front desk and Powder’s contracts to Renfro and his new property management company — Aspens on Blackcomb Resort. Renfro also owns Whistler Retreats.

Aspens on Blackcomb did indeed manage to sign up many of Powder’s clients. "They are claiming Craig Friday and the strata council wrongfully spoke to owners persuading them not to re-sign with Powder," said Renfro. "And they are claiming the bidding process was unfair when (the front desk lease) went to tender."

In its statement of claim, Powder maintains the tendering process was a "sham" and that it gave Aspens on Blackcomb an unfair advantage.

Renfro, however, said owners defected from Powder to his new company because he made a good, solid presentation. "The owners felt confident that we could provide a more personalized service and provide strong returns and attention to their investment," noted Renfro. "Those are some the advantages of being with a smaller company." He said he would have signed even more clients if he had access to the front desk.

Both Powder and Aspens on Blackcomb claim they each have signed contracts with "more than 70" owners. That would leave the remaining 140 owners split between another estimated 13 rental management companies.

Supreme Court judge Mary Humphries ruled on June 30, 2000 that there was sufficient reason to go to trial. "I am satisfied that there is a serious issue to be tried, at lease in respect of the lease tender process," reads her judgement. O’Neill expects a court date will be set in July probably for two years from now.