Two years ago, a Houston company called Amidee through one of its affiliates bought the Parkway Plaza on a contract-for-deed basis from owner Pat Sweeney and his Hospitality Development Corp.
I had a bad feeling about that, in part because I lived 90 miles east of Houston in Beaumont for five years and knew something about the go-getter mentality -- big money, big promises, big plans, big egos, big dumb -- that is a Texas hallmark.
Bad feelings turned worse a year ago when a city of Casper memo discussed the possibility that Pat submitted a liquor license transfer request that implied the possibility he may resume ownership, meaning something was going weird with the Amidee management. Then there were the unpaid bills for city water, architects, plumbing, heating, and state unemployment and sales taxes.
Oh yeah, and all Amidee companies except for Amidee Wyoming's parent company Amidee Hotels & Resorts filed for bankruptcy in early January 2010. The hotels had similar financial problems but not bad enough to go Chapter 11, according to the bankruptcy filings.
The major whopper happened shortly thereafter in January when $3.7 million or so in liens were filed by about 40 of the those who bought bonds -- paying $20,000 to $200,000 or more -- with Amidee Hotels & Resorts to supposedly pay for the multimillion dollar renovations promised here and elsewhere in early 2009.
(Amidee also owned the legendary Frank Sinatra-hosting Hotel Niagara in Niagara Falls, N.Y., which was akin to our Townsend, Gladstone and Hemming. We have a hotel. Niagara Falls has a pile of bricks because their hotel is closed and possibily up for condemnation because of dumb stunts like shutting off the heat but not draining the pipes that burst and wrecked the place.)
Amidee was supposed to secure the Parkway Plaza property via liens but failed to do so as promised in the investment memorandum.
Hence our local mega-lien.
The investors, only a few from Wyoming and the Niagara Falls area curiously, weren't exactly innocent in the matter.
These bonds were sold in 2007 up to August 2008 as the real estate market went berzerko. Amidee promised a 12 percent a year return plus 10 percent of the net profit of any properties it sold until the bonds matured on Dec. 31, 2012. (!!!!!!!) We know what happened in September 2008. Nobody has repealed the business cycle, something the investors apparently didn't learn from the dot-com bust of the '90s, and from the energy booms and busts since forever.
Even stranger was Amidee's claim that investors should be aware the company does not have audited financial statements prepared by certified public accountants, but it does prepare unaudited financial statements.
Why the prospective investors didn't run like hell from that is beyond me.
My checkbook is an unaudited financial statement.
As it has turned out, Pat resumed ownership of the Parkway in July and has been conducting major renovations.
Amidee, which never returned phone calls seeking its side of the story, swims in a morass of bankruptcy stuff.
A lot of people are out millions of dollars.
And perhaps there's a lesson in this.
Casper and Wyoming suffer from a bad case of parochialism. If you're not born here (like you have a say in the matter), you are suspect. You may not have Wyoming values, whatever that means (independent spirit? substance abuse?). We slit our own throats because of this mentality when we're closed to other ideas from other places.
But the Parkway saga may have been mitigated with some tactical parochialism that wondered why a Houston company seemed to care so much about something here.