Ex-billionaire seeks mediation with legal foes

BILLINGS, Mont. — Embattled ex-billionaire Tim Blixseth is seeking settlement talks to resolve a tangle of lawsuits involving hundreds of millions of dollars in claims against him arising from the 2008 bankruptcy of Montana’s exclusive Yellowstone Club.

Blixseth, who lives in Washington state, faces an outstanding $41 million fraud judgment for his handling of the club’s finances. He also owes $57 million in alleged back taxes, and numerous other claims against him remain tied up in court.

Saying there’s no end in sight to those lawsuits, Blixseth’s attorneys requested that U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon order mediation.

Participants would include the club’s new owners, Montana authorities, banking giant Credit Suisse, the trustee for the estate of his ex-wife Edra Blixseth, and others.

The mediation request came as Montana officials seek to force Blixseth into bankruptcy in federal court in Nevada.

Blixseth told The Associated Press on Friday that he was giving his opponents “one chance … to try and resolve the past five years (of) attacks on me and my family. The choice is simply theirs.”

If mediation occurs, it would mark a significant turn in a high-stakes legal saga centered on the Yellowstone Club that is now in its fifth year. The private ski and golf resort for the uber-rich, located near Yellowstone National Park, emerged from bankruptcy several years ago under new ownership.

Attorneys representing Blixseth’s adversaries said they were skeptical mediation could finally resolve matters.

A federal bankruptcy judge ruled in 2010 that Tim Blixseth fraudulently took for his personal use most of a $375 million loan to the Yellowstone Club by Credit Suisse in the lead-up to the club’s bankruptcy.

When the resort started to founder, Tim Blixseth turned it over to Edra Blixseth during their 2008 divorce and took most of their remaining assets. The Yellowstone Club went bankrupt months later, forcing Edra Blixseth to sell the resort to investors led by Sam Byrne of Boston-based CrossHarbor Capital.

Tim Blixseth contends the bankruptcy and sale of the club were pre-orchestrated. He has cast himself as the victim in a wide-ranging conspiracy in which the club’s new owners, his ex-wife, court officials and Montana authorities allegedly are lined up against him.

Montana tax authorities contend the money Blixseth got out of the Credit Suisse loan was taxable. They’ve tried for more than two years to get him to pay up. A separate proceeding to get the money is pending before the Montana Tax Appeals Board.

In court documents filed by Blixseth as part of his mediation request, he lists more than a dozen lawsuits with claims against him totaling more than $500 million.

Employing a large team of lawyers, Blixseth has dragged out many of those cases for years with endless appeals, counterclaims and other legal maneuverings.

But in a court filing, his attorneys said the time is now ripe “to resolve nearly a half-decade of sprawling, hostile, and seemingly unending litigation.”

In another filing entered in the Nevada bankruptcy case, Blixseth’s attorneys said mediation would be beneficial even if Montana succeeds in forcing him into bankruptcy or he enters into it voluntarily.

Blixseth said in an email that there was “no chance” he would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Forbes once pegged Tim Blixseth’s net worth at $1.3 billion. Court documents more recently put the figure at roughly $230 million.

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