BY MICHAEL WALTON firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A Las Vegas man with a record of dubious business dealings is again eyeing a long-shuttered Leelanau County ski resort for redevelopment.
County officials could not confirm whether Eneliko “Liko” Smith had officially purchased Sugar Loaf as of Monday afternoon, but Smith appears to be touting the transaction as a done deal.
“He called our construction codes director Monday morning and said he’s the new owner,” county Administrator Chet Janik said.
A website about Smith — theworldsmostextremeCEO.com — states he has acquired Sugar Loaf with plans “to open what will be the grandest vision of a snow resort in the history of The United States.”
Attempts to reach Smith for comment were unsuccessful.
It’s not the first time Smith has shown interest in Sugar Loaf. In spring 2010 he pitched a multi-million dollar plan to reopen the resort. He entered talks with resort owner Kate Wickstrom, who at first publicly supported him.
Their relationship eventually disintegrated into name-calling and public attacks, and by June Wickstrom banned Smith and his associates from the property. Smith backed out of the deal for good that August.
County records show Wickstrom is still being assessed the Sugar Loaf property taxes.
Neither Wickstrom nor her attorney Joseph Quandt could be reached for comment.
Smith’s past and business decisions attracted considerable attention as his would-be deal with Wickstrom languished.
Smith pleaded guilty in California in April 2010 to felony grand theft charges tied to his failure to pay about $92,000 in taxes on a California hotel he once owned.
He also charged $100 per-plate for a dinner he hosted at Red Ginger in downtown Traverse City that year. He wanted to gather feedback from the public about how to redevelop Sugar Loaf, though he hadn’t yet purchased the property.
Janik said there is a lot of public interest in seeing Sugar Loaf reopened, but there’s also a “wait-and-see attitude” based on past redevelopment deals that fell through since the resort closed more than a decade ago, including Smith’s previous plans.
“Most people in the county would be thrilled if this would become a legitimate resort again, but there is some concern and apprehension because we’ve been down this road before,” Janik said.
Sally Guzowski, executive director of the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said a redeveloped resort would create jobs and more business during slow winter months.