Woman feels rooked in Redstone Castle sale
May 13, 2005
REDSTONE – Ralli Dimitrius loves his new castle.He wouldn’t give it up – not for a million-dollar profit.That’s the kind of money Los Angeles businesswoman Toshia Wildasin says she is willing to pay him for the Redstone Castle, in addition to the $4 million he paid in making the winning bid at an Internal Revenue Service auction in Glenwood Springs.However, “It’s not for sale,” Dimitrius says. “I don’t want to disappoint her. Even if she offered me $50 million I wouldn’t take it.”His unwillingness to sell more than disappoints Wildasin. It is the latest devastating development for a woman who had her heart set on being the castle’s new owner.”That place should have been mine. It’s not, and I accept it, but it’s really difficult for me. It’s very emotional.”To this day, Wildasin thinks back to March 19, and what might have been, and it’s all she can do not to cry.On a day when Dimitrius was all smiles over his success at the auction, Wildasin was an emotional wreck. She could only put on a brave face in the Glenwood Springs Community Center room where the auction had taken place, and think of what might have happened had she been bidding.But when the auction started, Wildasin wasn’t there yet. And when it was over Dimitrius walked off with the castle at what many observers in Redstone considered to be a bargain price.Wildasin said she would have offered $4.7 million “without blinking an eye.””I would have gotten nervous near the $5 million mark,” she said.But she will never know whether she could have outbid Dimitrius. All she knows is that months of work aimed at buying the castle at the auction had gone for naught. Now Wildasin’s only chance of realizing the dream of owning the castle lies in changing Dimitrius’ mind. She would happily pay $4.5 million to $5 million, or maybe more, if she could persuade him to give up what he cherishes.”He’s in love with that castle and so am I,” said Angela Hough, the fiancée of Dimitrius.Race against the clockWildasin said she got to Glenwood Springs late because weeks of trying to get investors to go in on a somewhat risky business proposition didn’t result in a firm commitment until late the day before the auction.Wildasin is a partner in the posh Table 8 restaurant in Los Angeles and is opening a second Table 8 in Miami. She was in Miami when she learned she had willing investors. Because it was spring break she had to drive to Fort Myers to be able to catch a plane to the Eagle County Airport.After two layovers and a sleepless night of travel with her pet Chihuahua in tow, she raced to the local Wells Fargo bank to open a new account and get a cashier’s check for the $200,000 required to participate in the auction. The bank manager agreed to stay past the office’s closing that Saturday morning to make that happen.
But the technicalities of opening the account and transferring funds resulted in Wildasin’s late arrival at the 2 p.m. auction.Jeff Bier, a Redstone real estate agent who was working with Wildasin, tried to get the IRS to delay the bidding until she arrived. And the agency agreed to wait for probably about 10 minutes, said John Harrison, the IRS special agent who has handled the castle case.But out of fairness to other bidders, and with a slew of media waiting, the agency eventually went ahead without her.Wildasin thinks the decision may have cost the agency as much as $1 million in additional proceeds that it could have used to compensate victims of fraudulent investment scams.The IRS seized the castle and a Victorian home in Redstone and then auctioned them off to help provide restitution to potentially more than 1,000 victims of a $56 million scam involving the castle’s former owner, Leon Harte.Dimitrius recently completed payment on the castle. The IRS also seized about $17 million in cash and two racing cars worth a total of about $2 million. Harrison said the agency expects to be able to pay about 40 cents on the dollar for claims in the case. It already has paid $960,000 to a mortgage firm.”Yeah, we would have liked to have gotten more money” from the castle sale, Harrison said.But there’s no guarantee that would have happened had Wildasin been able to bid, he said. He also wonders whether Wildasin would have had the resources needed to make the castle a viable business in a town that is counting on it succeeding for the sake of Redstone’s economy.”It’s one of those things, as we all know, it’s kind of a money pit,” Harrison said of the castle, built by coal magnate John C. Osgood at the start of the 20th century.Dimitrius appears to have both the money and plans to make the castle succeed, Harrison said.”It seems to me that he’s a good fit for the community. I’m not saying that she wouldn’t be, or her group wouldn’t be. … Here’s a guy, he isn’t scrambling for funding. He just says ‘I’ll cut you a check’ and we’re done.””I just think it turned out the way it was supposed to, really, even if we did get a little less money.” Bier was pulling for Wildasin to end up owning the castle. He stood to gain financially by working with her, he said, but he also has an interest in the castle’s future, as a longtime Redstone resident who once was a caretaker there.”She sounded like she was going to do something that I thought would be certainly advantageous to the community,” Bier said.Wildasin had hoped to build some small cottages on the front of the castle property. She wanted to make the facility a family-oriented retreat where weddings and conferences could be held, and carriage and sleigh rides, fly fishing and cross country skiing could be offered. She understood the castle’s importance to Redstone and wanted to make it available for community functions such as fire department dinners.Bier said Redstone residents were approached by a lot of prospective buyers, and were interested in seeing it bought by someone who would work with the community and keep the castle open to the public. Wildasin appeared to be one of their better hopes, Bier said.She also seemed to have done about as much work as anyone in planning for the castle’s future, and looking into the issues that surrounded owning and operating it.”She got her arms around it and knew what was going on,” he said. “She had a great deal of enthusiasm.”
Dimitrius, a Hermosa Beach, Calif., resident who also has a home in Aspen, is much more of an unknown quantity to Bier. But Bier is encouraged so far by what he’s heard of the new owners’ plans, and apparent financial resources.”I certainly don’t begrudge him getting the property. I would have liked to have seen Toshia (buy it), but who knows? Everybody was an unknown until they got in there and had a chance to perform.”He said he was surprised that Wildasin was late for the auction, given her level of interest.”I felt bad about it but certainly everyone knew the deadlines,” he said.A hurried sale?Wildasin said the special circumstances surrounding the castle made it hard to do the due diligence required in a timely manner, and sell investors on the idea.”When you have to sell an idea, one like this, people have a lot of questions,” she said.Some of the castle’s challenges include the high cost of renovation, utilities and upkeep; the many requirements associated with getting development plans approved by Pitkin County; and a historic preservation easement aimed at protecting the property.Dave Michaelson, a planning consultant who had done prior work on the castle, said he probably spent hours on the phone with Wildasin, the only prospective buyer to contact him.”She was pretty astute in terms of what she was facing in terms of the review process,” he said.”She just seemed so high on getting that property. Just the amount of legwork that she did. I don’t even know how she found my cell number, to be honest,” said Michaelson, a former Roaring Fork Valley resident who now lives in Crested Butte. Wildasin said she put together a 400-page binder on the property. She said she only had about a month to work on the project.”They didn’t give people a lot of time to do their due diligence,” she said of the IRS.”The IRS, I think, rushed things,” Bier agreed.He said the castle went up for sale at a time of year when it didn’t show well. He also heard from parties that were interested in the property but didn’t have the time to research it properly.Harrison said the IRS was under a court order “to sell the property. Don’t sell the property a year from now or eight months from now, but sell the property now.”He said it also was widely publicized after the IRS seized the castle that it was going to be sold.
“How much notice did you need? You either had your ducks in a row or you didn’t,” he said.Wildasin became interested in buying the castle when she saw it listed in an IRS auction publication.At one point, she gave up on finding investors. But she said she then got a last-minute commitment from a well-known rock star, whom she declined to identify, and from the musician’s manager.Between them, they offered to put up $4 million. Wildasin said she was prepared to invest another $2 million of her own money into the project.When Wildasin, a frequent visitor to Aspen, came to Colorado for the auction, it was her first chance to see the castle. “It was far more than I had envisioned. … It was a true fairy tale come to life. That just made it worse,” Wildasin said.To Michaelson, the land planner, Wildasin’s experience “sounds like a bad movie,” he said.After the auction, Wildasin and associates began working to track down Dimitrius in hopes of seeing if he would be willing to sell the castle for a quick profit. She even hired a private investigator to try to learn his identity before he went public several days after the sale.It turned out the new buyer had wanted to own the castle for years and had tried once before to buy it at auction.”He was very excited to bid on it again,” said his fiancée, Hough. “He’s really looking forward to opening the castle up.”Dimitrius plans to make the castle a resort, with tours, and activities such as horseback riding and hiking the grounds. Hough is a massage therapist and plans to operate a full-service spa there.They both have children. “Kids’ recreation is going to be really important there,” Hough said.”We’re all kind of dreaming about what it is that we’re going to do. One thing’s for sure, our dreams are all coming true.”While that’s not the case for Wildasin, she said she wishes Dimitrius and Hough well. “My misfortune became their blessings,” she said.Her only hope now is that if Dimitrius’ personal circumstances change or the castle’s challenges prove too daunting, he might consider selling to her.”We’re neighbors” she said of fellow Southern Californian Dimitrius. “He should at least know someone else loves and values the place probably more than he does. If there’s nothing to be done now, maybe in the future…””You never know,” Dimitrius said. “But as of now we’re still happy to have it.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org