Owner's partner hatches plan to keep gorge icon
Following a bankruptcy court ruling Thursday, July 14, that the fire-damaged, financially troubled View Point Inn in Corbett will be taken over by a court trustee, the owners announced a plan to try and keep the inn - while also taking shots at state Rep. Matt Wand, a Gresham attorney involved in the case.
Co-owner Geoff Thompson and his partner, Angelo Simione, said Friday, July 15, that Simione would try to purchase the inn and 'go ahead with the dream of restoring the Oregon landmark.' Simione couldn't say how he would buy the inn but noted 'the money will come from somewhere.'
Thompson lost control of the inn when the bankruptcy court converted his Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing - which allowed him to continue running the inn with protection from creditors - to Chapter 7, which means a trustee takes over, liquidates the debtors' assets and pays as much as possible to creditors. Thompson was scheduled to turn over the inn to the trustee on Friday afternoon.
Thompson told the court he wanted to keep the inn open and fulfill obligations to the couples who had booked weddings at the inn, which is renowned for its picturesque views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Simione, who previously filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, said the court's Thursday ruling only affected Thompson's assets. Simione co-owned the property with Thompson until he removed his name while undergoing treatment for cancer in 2010.
Simione and Thompson blasted Wand and Wand's uncle, Dick Wand, whose construction company was seeking compensation for unpaid construction work and repairs at the inn. Thompson said the Wands had killed his dream of keeping the inn and had put 'a dagger in the heart' of the couples who will not be able to get married at the inn. Simione also accused Matt Wand of homophobia and for pursuing a personal vendetta against them.
Wand, who participated in Thursday's bankruptcy hearing, is representing Steve Serafini, a creditor who is owed about $200,000; and Dick Wand Construction, which is owed around $20,000 to $30,000 in principal, interest, attorneys' fees and collection fees. Wand said his uncle, Dick Wand, performed $10,000 in construction at the inn four years ago but was never paid for the work.
'We've been trying for four years to work with (Thompson and Simione),' Wand said. He said they had come up with at least four repayment plans over the last four years, but Thompson and Simione would not follow through with payment, often not returning phone calls. Wand said his uncle's company is one of four construction companies that have filed suit.
Wand dismissed Simione and Thompson's claims as ridiculous and false.
'They had been threatening me for years, so I'm sure they received the (court's) result yesterday and freaked out,' he said.
Deep in debt
According to court documents filed by the U.S. Trustee's office, Thompson owes $2.8 million in secured debt, including a federal tax lien of more than $104,000, at least five state tax liens, at least nine judgment liens and various trust deeds and mortgages.
Thompson also owes unsecured debt totaling nearly $128,000. The 31 pages of unsecured creditors included at least 188 creditors who had 'unknown' claims.
'By the time we go through all this, we could find out that they owe more than $2.9 million,' Wand said.
The creditors include former employees of the inn, who are seeking thousands of dollars for unpaid wages through the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Thompson said he was unsure of what would happen to the inn's 20 current employees in light of Thursday's court ruling.
Executive Chef Matthew Castellani said he and his wife, Whitney Castellani, had worked at the inn for almost four months and were cooking for a wedding on Sunday when the fire was reported.
'We're taking it one day at a time,' he said on Friday about he and his wife's future plans.
'We spent a lot of time here,' Whitney said. 'It became like family.'
The Castellanis, who relocated to Gresham from Oregon City to work at the inn, said they were grateful for the opportunities that Thompson and Simione had given them. Matthew said he is in contact with other employees and has the impression that they also are in favor of trying to save the inn.
It's also not clear what will happen to the couples who paid wedding reservation deposits to the inn.
Thompson said the inn had booked 50 weddings through the end of October, as well as one wedding on Christmas and another one on New Year's. He and Simione had promised to pay back the couples who asked for their money back; however, Thompson said Friday that he had no way to pay anyone back without the inn. Simione added he was not legally obligated to pay anyone back because he is not an official co-owner of the inn.
According to court documents, Thompson listed his real property assets as $1.2 million, including the inn and his personal residence. He also listed $6,460 in personal property assets.
Wand said even if the court trustee were to sell off the property, it will unlikely bring in enough money to pay the creditors. It's possible the trustee could abandon the property and allow the secured creditors to foreclose on it and put it up for auction, he said.
Wand doubts that every claimant will get their money back.
'These guys have racked up so much debt, I don't know how they could repay everybody,' Wand said.