The lending group pushing to auction off the assets of an Aspen-based real estate holding company is postponing this month’s scheduled sale until July, citing reasons related to increased interest in the properties.
The sale of Ajax Holdings’ assets set June 27 in New York City will be “rescheduled to on or around July 26, 2023 to identify the best transaction,” according to a letter dated June 14 and signed by Darrell Cafasso, a New York lawyer. The lenders and their affiliates have hired Dallas-based commercial property firm CBRE to solicit bidders and administer the auction.
The new July 26 sale date for Ajax Holdings would fall on the same day as the foreclosure auction for Aspen Valley Ranch. The 800-acre plus ranch in Woody Creek features a collection of luxury custom-built homes, a fishing and boating pond, a historic barn converted into a clubhouse decked out with a dining area and recreation center, an eight-horse barn and other amenities.
The lenders have claimed businessman and part-time Aspen resident Charif Souki is on the hook for nearly $120 million, which includes interest on $90 million in loans on which he has defaulted, according to court records.
Souki and his family control ownership of Ajax Holdings and Aspen Valley Ranch, which were pledged as collateral against the personal loans Souki received, according to public records.
Souki pledged Ajax Holdings and Aspen Valley Ranch as collateral for the loans, as well as his 25 million shares in the stock of Houston-based Tellurian, a liquified natural gas company he co-founded in 2016. Souki and his lawyers have argued the lenders prematurely dumped the Tellurian shares, after seizing them from Souki, at fire-sale prices below $2 earlier this year.
Souki lawyers have argued that he over-collateralized the loans and the sum total from the sales of the ranch, Ajax Holdings, the Tellurian stock, as well as Souki’s yacht, would surpass the amount that he owes on the loans.
The lenders and CBRE recently turned down a $56 million offer from Souki for Ajax Holdings, after determining that “they will not accept the offer as currently presented and will proceed with the Auction for the Pledged Interests to solicit higher and better offers,” according to a letter marked June 14 from lending group lawyer Laura Metzger to Souki attorney Timothy S. McConn of Houston. That letter also is part of the case file.
Souki said in a sworn statement that Ajax Holdings’ value will increase if it is not sold at auction.
“It is my belief that if the auction is enjoined, the Ajax Shares will likely appreciate in value, both due to the passage of time and due to the assurance to the market that Ajax Holdings remains a going concern that will not be auctioned off in the near term or in an irresponsible manner,” said Souki in a signed affidavit stamped June 9.
Public notices and marketing materials for the sale of Ajax Holdings describe the assets as being local real estate franchise Coldwell Banker Mason Morse and “collateral consisting of multifamily, retail condo and office properties in Aspen, Colorado.”
The lending group is comprised of Nineteen77 Capital Solutions of New York, Bermudez Mutuari Ltd. of the Cayman Islands, Chicago-based UBS O’Connor LLC and Delaware-based Wilmington Trust National Association.
Parties on both sides of the dispute have not responded to newspaper inquiries about the matter.
Rick Carroll I Aspen Daily News I June 20, 2023