Crown crony buys Aspen mansion for $31.5 million

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenNovember 6, 2010
The owner of the $31.5 million stone mansion that recently sold in Aspen is a clandestine Chicago fat cat who works and plays with the owners of the Aspen Skiing Company and bankrolls Republican causes.
Paula Crown, Christopher Reyes, Jim Crown and Andy McKenna at a Children's Memorial Hospital function.

J. Christopher Reyes bought the 15,000-square-foot pad Oct. 29, setting a new high for a single-family home sale in Pitkin County this year. It sits on 44 acres near the Buttermilk ski area and includes a guesthouse and horse stable. The property, once owned by the Pfisters, was listed for $47.5 million.

Reyes is the chairman of Reyes Holdings LLC, the largest privately held firm in Chicago and the nation's largest beer distributor, with operations in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. It is also the controlling U.S. distributor to McDonald's Corp. through its ownership of Martin-Brower Co.

Reyes prefers to keep a low profile.

"If no one knew me, I'd be just as happy,” he told Crain's Chicago Business in 2005.

But many of America's caviar eaters do know Reyes.

He is on the Forbes list of "The Richest People in America,” where he landed the 205th spot with a net worth of $1.9 billion. Reyes serves as chairman of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago and on boards for institutions like the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry and Big Shoulders Fund where he serves alongside Lester Crown, the patriarch of the Aspen Skiing Company. Reyes was a former director of the Crown-controlled General Dynamics Corp. He chairs the Museum of Science and Industry with Jim Crown and Cindy Pritzker and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago with Susan Crown. Penny Pritzker serves with him on After School Matters.

“Beer distribution has not been the traditional path for executives rising to this inner sanctum of Chicago's corporate and philanthropic elite,” Steven Strahler of Crain's Chicago Business wrote. “But Mr. Reyes has done it, while crafting a new, squeaky-clean image for an industry with a shady past, particularly in this town.”

Reyes is also part of Chicago's political machine. He handed out $100,000 to the recently formed Two Party System Inc., which funded mostly Republican candidates for the Illinois General Assembly. From his new West Buttermilk Road home, he will be able to easily participate in the rising tide of Republican strategizing in Aspen.

He bought his Aspen retreat from Bob Zangrillo, founder of Chicago private-equity firm Z Capital.

comments: 1 Comment on "Crown crony buys Aspen mansion for $31.5 million"

LeeMulcahyPhD – April 08, 2013, at 10:16 p.m.

The billionaire Crowns are huge bullies. Why?

Aspen ski instructor suspended after protest
Employee ratchets up battle over pay for beginning instructors; distributes fliers
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

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Lee Mulcahy
ASPEN — The Aspen Skiing Co. suspended one of its ski instructors Thursday after he passed out fliers on Skico property that were critical of the company's owners and its pay for beginning instructors.

The instructor, Lee Mulcahy, said he distributed the fliers at the Skico-owned Little Nell Hotel and in the Silver Queen Gondola plaza in Aspen Thursday morning before he went to work teaching a private lesson at Snowmass Ski Area.

After the lesson, he said he resumed passing out fliers to people at the base of the Elk Camp Gondola in Snowmass. According to Mulcahy, Jim Laing, Skico vice president of human resources, asked him to stop passing out the fliers and to talk to him about his actions.

“He followed me around while I distributed the fliers,” Mulcahy said. “He wasn't happy.”

Mulcahy said he told Laing he couldn't stop because he needed to complete his task and he wanted his team leader present. In the ski school's hierarchy, a team leader is the direct supervisor to a small cell of instructors.

Once the team leader was present, Mulcahy said he met with Laing and was informed he was suspended. Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle confirmed that Mulcahy was suspended with pay and benefits.

Hanle said that Mulcahy will be paid for the private lessons he was booked to teach “while there is no change in his status.”

Hanle said he couldn't discuss the personnel matter further. “There is an investigation ongoing,” he said.

Fliers on Audi sponsor car
Hanle said Skico officials were alerted at 8 a.m. that Mulcahy was distributing the fliers in the lobby of the Little Nell Hotel. He was also allegedly pushing the fliers under the doors of guest rooms. Hanle said Mulcahy was asked to leave the hotel.

Mulcahy said he also passed out fliers to passers-by in the gondola plaza and placed them on windshields of vehicles parked on Durant Avenue in front of the hotel. He also placed fliers on the windshield of an Audi parked in the plaza as part of a promotion. Audi is one of the prime corporate partners of the Skico. As such, some of its vehicles are parked in the gondola plaza during high traffic times. Thursday was one of the busiest days on the slopes.

Mulcahy said he kept putting fliers on the Audi while he was making his rounds and found them removed when he returned. He estimated he put six fliers on the sponsorship Audi.

All told, Mulcahy estimated he handed out 200 fliers in Aspen and Snowmass Village Thursday.

Mulcahy said part of his verbal suspension also alleged that he was discussing conditions and pay for Skico employees while he was on the clock and in a Skico facility. He acknowledged that he was telling his ski school student about his protest over pay for beginning instructors on Thursday. The client was purchasing a lift ticket in a private lesson lounge at Snowmass, where they can avoid lift lines. While they were in the lounge, Mulcahy and his student discussed Mulcahy's protest of Skico policies.

Mulcahy said Laing informed him that Skico would investigate that alleged conversation. Mulcahy contends that conservation was protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

Gist of the dispute
The flier distribution is the latest salvo in what Mulcahy considers a battle to force the Skico owner, the Lester Crown family of Chicago, and Skico management to pay beginning instructors better.

The flier has a big, bold headline saying, “Greed?” Smaller type says, “Cost of Private Lesson: $625. Labor payment to least paid instructors: $69. Fair?”

Mulcahy has complained about the pay in recent letters to the editor of both newspapers and in e-mails with other instructors. He has also formed an organization, People For a Living Wage, to press the issue.

Mulcahy himself is a veteran instructor in the ski school's second highest pay grade, so the issue doesn't directly affect him. He said he is pursuing the issue as “social justice.”

In an interview last week, Laing said the pay rate Mulcahy is targeting applies to less than 2/10ths of 1 percent of the lessons provided by the ski school. The company employs about 1,200 instructors. Mulcahy picked the lowest pay grade, one that doesn't apply to many instructors, and he didn't look at the entire package paid by Skico, Laing said previously. He noted that the company provides reasonably priced housing for many entry-level employees, subsidizes bus passes and makes health care coverage available for seasonal workers.

Laing said internal and third-party surveys indicate Skico employees like working for the company. Outside Magazine named the Skico one of the top employers in 2010, based on the results of a independent survey.

The Skico contends it has “the best total compensation package for pros, including pay and benefits, in the entire industry,” according to a previous letter to the editor submitted by Katie Ertl, managing director, Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass. “The average hourly rate paid to pros during the 2009/2010 season for all products combined was more than twice the industry average per the National Ski Area Association Survey.”

In summary, her letter said the Skico charges less and pays its instructors more than its key competitors.

Mulcahy said the Skico's justification of the beginning salary is a moot point to him. The real issue is that beginning instructors allegedly aren't making a “living wage,” he said.

The fliers he distributed take the Crowns to task at a time when many of the family members are in town for the holidays. The flap is inevitably an embarrassment to top Skico managers.

In the flier, Mulcahy notes that Forbes magazine estimated Lester Crown's fortune at $4.1 billion. He alleged in the flier that the Crown family gave $1 million to United Way's Tocqueville Society, which is working to maintain jobs that pay a living wage.

“We encourage the Crowns to be more responsible socially and put their money where their mouth is,” the flier says.

Complaint to NLRB
Mulcahy first started speaking out about Skico corporate responsibility issues in May 2010. He claimed he has faced retaliation for writing letters to the local newspapers about Skico issues and for discussing possible formation of a union with other instructors. The Skico denies he has faced any retaliation.

Mulcahy filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in Denver, contending his rights under the labor act were violated. The federal agency is investigating to see if his charges have merit. If so, a formal complaint or complaints could be filed and hearings held. A determination is expected in January.

Hanle said Thursday the Skico stands by its earlier statements that it has done nothing wrong. It is cooperating fully with the NLRB investigation, he said. ---------------------------------------------------------------

Six months later, after I was fired, there was a federal settlement requiring Skico to make structural changes and change their freedom of speech policy; however, the Skico continued to ban me, the whistleblower.

So I sued them in Colorado court, but wait, it gets better:

Mulcahy faces trespassing charge for serving lawsuit

Former ski instructor taped court summons on door of Skico's headquarters
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN — The battle between a former ski instructor and Aspen Skiing Co. took another odd twist Thursday when Lee Mulcahy received a summons for third-degree trespass after he taped a court notice onto a door at the firm's headquarters.

Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Levi Borst determined the trespass charge, a petty offense, was warranted because Mulcahy had been warned previously to stay off Skico property, according to an incident report. Mulcahy was banned from all Skico property when he was fired as a ski instructor in February 2011.

Mulcahy said he was simply trying to deliver a revised court summons for a lawsuit he filed against Jim and Paula Crown, members of the family that owns Skico. The lawsuit was initially filed in Pitkin County District Court. It was refiled in Pitkin County Court. Once it was refiled, Mulcahy was obligated to inform the Crowns.

“Being white trash, I was trying to save the money by taping the revision to the door” at Skico headquarters at 117 Aspen Airport Business Center, Mulcahy said.

In his lawsuit against the Crowns, Mulcahy is seeking to overturn the ban and damages of $1.

Earlier, Mulcahy tried to serve the revised summons by handing it to a Skico employee and asking her to take it inside, according to the incident report. The employee wouldn't help. So Mulcahy decided to tape the summons to an outside door at Skico offices. He said he had a 6-foot pole made from PVC pipe with him in case he needed an extension to avoid trespassing. However, he said he thought he was on a public sidewalk to a side door at Skico headquarters, so he walked up and taped the notice to the door.

Skico Senior Vice President and attorney Dave Bellack contacted the sheriff's department about Mulcahy's actions later Thursday. He reported the incident as a harassment because of Mulcahy's efforts to convince a Skico employee to take in the revised summons.

Mulcahy said he was contacted by a deputy at his home after he returned home Thursday night from bible study at an Aspen church. He requested that the deputy go to Skico headquarters with him to see if he actually trespassed on Skico property. Mulcahy said he will investigate whether he was on a public easement as part of his defense. The door opens to a parking lot that doesn't belong to Skico, he said.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Skico had no comment about the incident.

Mulcahy claimed he was the victim in the incident. It shows how Skico “bullies the little guy,” he said.

“Should I expect this kind of disrespectful treatment from billionaires Jim and Paula Crown for pointing out they're limousine liberals .... for questioning their ban?” he said.

Mulcahy has a running battle against Skico over the wages paid to beginning ski instructors and other lower tier employees. Mulcahy wants Skico to pay what he calls a living wage.

Mulcahy was fired by Skico in February 2011. The company said it was for multiple infractions of company policy. Mulcahy claimed it was because he criticized company practices and talked to other instructors about forming a union.

He tried to get his job back by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) but was not reinstated. The NLRB did require Skico to restructure its ski school structure so that management didn't participate on employee grievance boards. Skico was also required to specifically inform employees it was within their rights to explore formation of a union.

Mulcahy said his fight with his former employer is over freedom of speech. In addition to his lawsuit against the Crowns, he filed a libel lawsuit earlier this year against Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan for comments Kaplan made at the time of Mulcahy's firing.

Mulcahy is supposed to appear in county court May 1 for the trespass case. He said he will try to get the hearing postponed because he will be in Africa installing water wells as part of a interfaith community volunteer project.

FYI: I'm not a criminal, just a loud mouthed Texan who believes in freedom: --------------> Renaissance Man: How Aspen gave pro skier Lee Mulcahy a raison d’etre. By Jennifer Sherman.

Like many avid skiers, Lee Mulcahy started young. The pro skier strapped on his first pair of skis when he was 6 years old and 3 decades later he’s still on the slopes-and in grand style. Mulcahy took first place in the Colorado Zebulon Ski/Snowboard Crossover in February 2005 and is one of the most frequently requested ski and snowboard instructors at the Ski School of Aspen.

His accomplishments don’t stop there: Mulcahy is an artist in residence at the Anderson Art Center in Snowmass, and placed sixth at the US Nationals for Mountain Boarding-X in 2003 and seventh in 2005. He windsurfs, mountain bikes, camps, canoes, white-water kayaks, and does freestyle backflips on skis and a snowboard; he appeared on CBS’s The Amazing Race and The Rosie O’Donnell Show; and he serves on the Aspen Historical Society’s board of trustees.

Did we mention the Ph.D? Mulcahy moved to Aspen/Snowmass when he was 25, after wrapping up the coursework for his doctorate in 19th century French art and literature. “I thought, What a wonderful place to get away and write [my dissertation], says the Dallas-born, Fort Worth-raised athlete. “Problem is, there’s so much to do here. I could write… or go mountain biking. Finishing took a little longer than I thought it would.”

After completing his dissertation four years later, Mulcahy decided to make the Aspen area his permanent home. “The thought of unloading off Chair 4-the Burn Chair-at Snowmass early in the morning on a big, silent powder day, or the camaraderie at the front of the line at the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain, was too tempting he says. “The money’s not great, but I don’t see stopping.”

Instructor Tip: Prepare your body for private lessons. “I give my clients a 10-minute workout to perform 3 times a week, six weeks before they arrive; it makes all the difference in the world.”

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