|By Steve Lipsher, The Denver Post|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 14, 2004 - SILVERTHORNE, Colo. -- A Florida company's plans for an indoor water park, 18-hole golf course, music-entertainment center, and about 1,000 condominium units, luxury hotel suites and vacation homes has caught some people here by surprise -- notably town officials who would have to approve such a grandiose development.
In press releases last week, publicly traded eMax Holdings announced plans to buy two ranches on the northern edge of Silverthorne and begin construction on the project in late spring.
But local officials suggest it will take at least six months for the approvals -- if, improbably, there is no major opposition or problems.
"It seems to me that somebody here is playing games," said Silverthorne Mayor Lou Del Piccolo. "I find it somewhat amusing. It seems to me that this falls into the category of what I call serial speculators. It's rather unrealistic. It's not serious." Securities experts say the optimistic schedule may be intended to drum up investment in the Orlando, Fla.-based penny-stock company.
Several eMax officials, including chairman and chief executive Matthew "Chuck" Weber and his wife, co-chairwoman Roxanna Weber, did not respond to numerous calls last week seeking comment.
"All the statements made within the press statement are true, and that's the only information that can be released at this time," said Michael Reynolds, director of investor relations for the company. "They're a publicly traded company. They're not going to release any information that's not correct. Maybe that's something you need to double-check." Silverthorne officials, however, said they haven't had any discussions on development of the Clark and Heitt ranches in more than two years and that it would take months to get approvals.
"We'd have to do a major (planned-unit development) amendment, which would take six months at the very minimum," said community-development director Mark Leida.
Tom Garvin, who currently owns the properties under the name Seminole Land Holdings, declined to comment on the pending sale.
Statements indicating that eMax has the project all but approved show that officials have not done their homework on a town wary of runaway development and unlikely to approve such zoning density on its rural fringes, Del Piccolo said.
"I think they're fishing in muddy waters," he said.
Under federal Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, eMax is required to issue press releases on major business developments, and the statements about the Silverthorne properties could have been made in good faith even if the company never consulted with the town.
EMax, which primarily has focused on Christian and family-oriented entertainment through its television-production and music subsidiaries, features several veterans of the 1950s and '60s music industry on its board, including Jimmy Velvet, a former member of Elvis Presley's "Memphis Mafia." In its press releases, which include the routine disclaimer that the statements are "forward-looking" and "involve risks and uncertainties," the company said "construction is scheduled to start in the late spring of 2005" and is expected to last two to three years. The project is expected to gross in excess of $1 billion, the company said.
Dubbing the project the Buffalo Mountain Private Residence Club and Golf Course, the company announced plans for a 50,000-square-foot indoor water park; an 18-hole golf course; a 48,000-square- foot music-entertainment center; 350 townhouses; 286 "golf-course estate" properties; 100 single-family golf- course estate homes; and 350 condo-hotel suites.
The company's claims about the Summit County development could prove legally dicey if eMax officials "knew or should have known" that they were patently untrue or impossible, according to the SEC, which regulates publicly traded companies.
The company has generated significant buzz recently among penny-stock watchers.
"I feel it may be on the verge of a breakout in price," wrote Larry Oakley of the online stock magazine Wall Street Corner.com in September.
After trading as low as 2.5 cents a share earlier this year, the company's stock price began a gradual climb at the beginning of August and now sells for about 75 cents a share.
The rise coincided with a flurry of activity and announcements by eMax, among them:
--In October, the company agreed to purchase 50 percent of The Entertainment Group, a Latin music-production company whose founder, Gerardo Bernard, was appointed to the board of directors of eMax Alive, the company's entertainment subsidiary.
--Also in October, eMax joined forces with evangelist Edgar Baillie to form the Jubilee Christian Television Network to provide programming for independent stations, with productions shot at eMax studios.
--In November, eMax purchased the Hollywood and music-industry memorabilia collection from Legends and Superstars, a company owned by eMax board member Velvet.
--The company in November also announced plans to build a hotel and musical theater in Black Hawk modeled after Branson, Mo.
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