Current, former players lose $13-million in resort deal
TORONTO and GLENDALE, ARIZ. -- Len Barrie's misadventure in leading the Bear Mountain golf resort and real-estate development into bankruptcy left more than 100 angry investors and creditors in its wake, including 18 current and former National Hockey League players who lost a total of more than $13-million.
Sean Burke, goaltender coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, is one of the unfortunate 18, having lost more than $600,000. What angers him more than losing the money is the impression Barrie, who used his share of Bear Mountain to help buy part of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008, is not going to face any consequences.
"How does a guy get away with being able to build something to that level, with everybody else's money, and then not be accountable at the end of the day?" Burke said. "He's walking away with a hell of a lot more than he ever walked in [with], whereas everybody else is walking away with nothing."
Burke and his fellow investors will see nothing from the bankruptcy settlement. The majority of Bear Mountain was taken over by its biggest creditor, HSBC Canada, last fall.
The bank agreed to pay a group of unsecured creditors $500 each with a promise that if a sale of the assets exceeded $195-million in the next three years, some of the excess would go to them. No such promises were made to the investors.
However, on Friday afternoon in a Victoria courtroom, Barrie, 41, will have to provide answers for at least some of his actions at the nearby resort. He is facing charges under the Income Tax Act for not filing tax returns for 2008 and 2009 for Bear Mountain Projects, a small company connected to Bear Mountain Master Partnership, the parent company of the development.
There may be more trouble on the horizon for the former NHL player and owner.
In addition to a Canada Revenue Agency investigation, the RCMP's commercial crime unit on Vancouver Island is interviewing people connected with Barrie and Bear Mountain.
Scott Bye, a former member of Bear Mountain's executive committee, confirmed Tuesday he was interviewed by the RCMP, as did another source who did not want to be identified.
In September of 2009, several months before Bear Mountain wobbled into bankruptcy protection, Bye said Barrie admitted using company funds to buy his share of the Lightning.
Barrie denied any wrongdoing at the time and did so again Tuesday.
He also said the tax returns in question are now filed. "Everything should be done and filed," Barrie said.
Barrie added that he is not aware of an RCMP investigation. The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.
As for Burke and the other unhappy investors, Barrie said that is just the way the ball bounces in the real-estate game. Bear Mountain was caught in the vise of the recession, which dried up bank credit, and falling real-estate prices.
"No one's very happy," Barrie said. "What can you do? The world blew up. It was one of those things that happens. It didn't work out.
"I don't think Sean Burke understands everything. You've just got to start all over again. Things were great for eight years and then the world blew up."
What Burke doesn't understand is how Barrie can maintain what appears to be an upscale lifestyle in the wake of the resort's collapse and the loss of so much money.
"Basically, what he did was turn all this into his own personal bank account," Burke said. "At the end of the day, when all is said and done, he just funded a lifestyle for himself with everybody else's money. He was able to buy an NHL hockey club. He was able to do other investments around B.C.
"And here you've got these investors, ex-hockey players, who lost anywhere between $650,000 to a million."
Burke says he's come to terms with the fact that his investment is lost for good.
"Okay, I lost some money," Burke said. "I've lost money in other investments. You go into investments, you know there's some risk."
Barrie still has a home at Bear Mountain that was worth millions of dollars at one time. It was thought to be under foreclosure proceedings, but Barrie said Tuesday it is not even for sale.
"We'll see," he replied when asked if it could wind up on the block.
As for whether he made a deal with HSBC in connection with the loans in excess of $300-million the bank made to Bear Mountain, Barrie declined to comment.
Burke is waiting to see what happens next for Barrie.
"My opinion with Lennie is, I hope he hasn't done anything that lands him in jail," Burke said. "But if that's the case, then you walk away and say, well, it's a lesson in investing."
With a report from
FAMOUS NAMES INVOLVED
NHL investors Amount invested
Mike Vernon $2-million
(plus $7.6-million loan guarantee with HSBC)
Ray Whitney $3-million
Mike Sillinger $1.4-million
Rob Blake $600,000
Sean Burke $600,000
Trevor Kidd $600,000
Scott Mellanby $600,000
Joe Nieuwendyk $600,000
Gary Roberts $600,000
Brian Savage $600,000
Ryan Smyth $600,000
Brian Carlin $600,000
Wes Walz $500,000
Jeff Finley $300,000
Todd Simpson $300,000
Matt Pettinger $150,000
Rob Niedermayer Unknown
Greg Adams Unknown
Source: Supreme Court of B.C.