Shorty after Colorado’s controversial Economic Development Commission awarded Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment in excess of $84 million in tax rebates for a convention complex in Aurora, the company announced that it was getting out of the development business. It sold its “brand” and the right to manage its hotels to Marriott for $210 million. That sum is $90 million less than the $300 million that the ever-pliable City of Aurora had already awarded Gaylord for the convention project. Gaylord declared it could from now on only make a “minimal financial investment” in the Aurora project.
The timing of the announcement was not accidental. Gaylord had to finish ripping off the Economic Development Commission before it could make its announcement. Aurora’s ever clueless Economic Development Director Wendy Mitchell then announced to the press that Aurora would be sitting down with Gaylord and Marriott to see how to make the deal work for all involved and “everyone is still committed to the project.” How pathetic.
Gaylord has no money for any development projects and hasn’t for years. Marriott has made it clear it is only going to manage hotel properties and also will not be making any capital investments. The only ones coming to the table with money, in the form of tax rebates, are Aurora and the State of Colorado. Ms. Mitchell might as well find a homeless man being kicked out of downtown under Denver’s new camping ordinance and start negotiating with him.
At least The Denver Post finally got it after shamelessly shilling for Gaylord Entertainment for months. In an editorial titled “Good Riddance to Gaylord’s Plan in Aurora” it let go with full force. The Post called Gaylord Entertainment “snake-oil peddlers” and questioned “whether the company ever acted in good faith in Colorado.” The Post went on to expostulate that supporters of the project, including the Post, were duped and that Gaylord should peddle its snake-oil in some other town. It is assumed that the Post is also channeling Governor Hickenlooper’s feelings, as it always does.
But how did the City of Aurora, the governor of Colorado, the Colorado Economic Commission composed of some of Colorado’s leading businessmen and The Denver Post all get “duped” by the modern day “snake-oil salesman” called Gaylord Entertainment?
Everyone in the investment community knew that Gaylord Entertainment ran out of money for any actual development project years ago when its stock price plummeted. What Gaylord did instead of building projects was go around to desperate, gullible towns and communities like Aurora and secure massive tax entitlements and then move on to the next town. They conned Mesa, Arizona, out of $51 million and $308 million from Chula Vista, California. When Economic Executive Directors Ken Lund, Colorado, and Wendy Mitchell, Aurora, walked through the door at Gaylord Entertainment, the smart boys there must have been rubbing their hands with glee.
Gaylord’s plan is simple even if the Colorado Economic Commission and others still don’t get it. Gaylord will now form joint ventures with hedge funds and companies with actual money to spend. Gaylord’s sole contribution will be whatever they scammed out of the governmental entities. The other party will provide the funds to build the projects splitting the profits with Gaylord. Marriott will in turn make money managing the completed projects. If Aurora’s and Colorado’s Economic Commissions had even a little business savvy they would realize that Gaylord’s share in the profits will be based solely on what they managed to steal from Colorado taxpayers.
How could Colorado’s leaders be so blind to the obvious when a local newspaper like us, the Glendale Cherry Chronicle, and National Western Stock Show member Sue McGinley had figured it out long ago? The answer is found in the folk saying which all snake oil salesmen know — “It’s hard to cheat an honest man.”
Aurora was so busy seeing if they could con the City and County of Denver into giving up the National Western Stock Show and having the Denver taxpayers pay for it that it failed to even check with the investment community whether Gaylord had any money to invest. The Colorado Economic Commission in turn was so busy cheating Glendale, Douglas County, Estes Park and Montrose County out of their right to fairly compete for funds under the Regional Tourism Act that it didn’t appear to figure out that Gaylord was running the same scam all across the United States.
One would think that the Colorado Economic Commission would, in its shame and embarrassment, announce that the tax rebates awarded to Aurora for the Gaylord project had been yanked and would instead be awarded to one of the other applicants, but somehow we doubt it.
The blind Greek philosopher Diogenes was said to have traveled the world with a lantern searching for an “honest man.” No doubt he would not have wasted his time visiting the Colorado Economic Commission offices. The people there are desperately trying to find a brand new snake-oil salesman to help steal Colorado taxpayers blind again next year.
— Editorial Board