CEO, towing company in standoff
ASPEN ” An auto industry executive is alleging that an Aspen towing company tried to take him for a ride after his Jeep broke down in the backcountry.
Larry Denton, president and CEO of Michigan-based Dura Automotive Systems Inc., a publicly-traded car-parts supplier that staffs 15,800 employees, is in a standoff with Ajax Towing over a 1993 Jeep Wrangler that got stuck on Richmond Ridge on the backside of Aspen Mountain.
The Jeep remains impounded after the towing company took it down Aspen Mountain on June 30. Denton said he refuses to pay the $2,100 Ajax Towing wants from him to release the vehicle, because the fee is too high. In the meantime, Ajax Towing has made the Jeep’s new home its lot at 150 South Side Drive in Basalt.
Even so, Denton wants his Jeep back, and he’s taken legal steps to get it. On July 2, he filed a small-claims lawsuit in Pitkin County against Ajax Towing and Pitkin County deputy Jeff Lumsden, who called the company to haul the Jeep out of the backcountry. Denton’s suit seeks $5,000. He said he’ll take his Jeep in lieu of the money.
“I think $2,100 is unreasonable,” said Denton, who owns a vacation home at Aspen Glen, a private country club. “My whole point is what they were charging.”
Denton, whose company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October in the wake of Detroit’s auto industry crisis, said he’s willing to fly back to Aspen if the case goes to trial.
“I’ll fly back if I have to,” he said. “I’m not worried about that expense. We shouldn’t have people in Aspen charging this kind of fee.”
Lumsden declined to comment, and Ajax Towing co-owner Rego Omerigic said a settlement is in the works.
Omerigic said it took Ajax some 12 hours to complete the job, at the tune of $175 an hour.
“We had to go way off road to get it,” he said Wednesday. “We had to go through Express Creek and go to the top of Richmond Ridge. There were a lot of things we had to do.”
Omerigic said a verbal agreement has been reached in which Denton will pay between $1,000 and $1,500 to get his Jeep back.
Said Denton: “We may have reached an agreement on the phone but I’m not dropping this [the lawsuit] until it’s final.”
Denton and Omerigic do, however, agree on what led to the towing.
Initially Denton’s Jeep got stuck in a snowbank Taylor Pass on June 29. Denton and a passenger walked some six to eight miles to Richmond Ridge, where they found someone who towed the Jeep out of the snowbank. After making some headway in the Jeep, however, the motor mount broke, immobilizing the Jeep.
Denton claimed he put a note in the windshield, saying he would have it moved the next day.
“I walked to the Sundeck [on top of Aspen Mountain] and found some kids and told them I’d pay them $200 to move it, and they said they would,” Denton recalled.
But the next day, he received a message from Ajax Towing saying his Jeep had been towed and he needed to fork out $2,100 for its return.
Rick Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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