I’m very proud of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a magnificent, translucent, horseshoe-shaped bridge that extends 70 feet out and over the west rim of the Grand Canyon. I built this extraordinary tourist destination as an economic development tool and jobs engine for the Hualapai Tribe. The Hualapai are wonderful people who, unfortunately, have been led astray by a handful of misinformed individuals on the Tribal Council and their hired lawyers.
I’m saddened that Sherry Counts, current Hualapai chairwoman, wants to invoke my 2003 Skywalk development and management agreement with the tribe’s business arm, Sa Nyu Wa (SNW), only when it suits her. Chairwoman Counts says I didn’t hold up my end of the contract, but critically fails to reveal that it was the Tribal Council’s obligation to bring water, sewer and electric to the site so that I could complete construction of the visitor’s center. She wasn’t on the Tribal Council back in 2003, had nothing to do with our negotiations and is not listening now to tribal leaders who made the deal with me.
When I asked SNW to pay me my share of the management fees from Skywalk ticket sales in 2008, they said no. I asked for the management fees in 2009. SNW said no. I asked for the management fees in 2010. SNW said no. I asked for the management fees in 2011. SNW said no.
Our agreement contained a provision that either party could call for binding arbitration in the event of a dispute. SNW participated in the arbitration process, but when ordered to turn over point of sales information, they suddenly pulled out. They said there was nothing to arbitrate since they took over my rights through a hastily-enacted Eminent Domain law designed for me. Clearly, the arbitrator, and most recently the U.S. District Court, disagreed with the Tribal Council and awarded me a $28.6 million judgment, representing damages and unpaid management fees from 2007–2011. Experts estimate my total damages at $277 million for the balance of our contract.
The Tribal Council has filed a notice of appeal the federal court’s well-reasoned ruling. This delay tactic will be just more legal expense on the backs of the Hualapai people. My attorneys will act swiftly to require that the Tribal Council post a $30 million to $35 million bond (including post-judgment interest) to secure my $28.6 million judgment as we await the outcome of the Tribal Council’s appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
If the Tribal Council persists in trying to cut me out and pay what they claim is “fair market value” for my rights under the contract, they should not believe that their responsibility ends with the limited liquid assets held by SNW. Since the Tribal Council has sought to formally take over my rights in its Tribal Court, my attorneys tell me the tribe has lost the ability to hide behind the SNW corporate entity and has subjected itself to personal responsibility for the total value of the contract – estimated at $277 million.
Now, Chairwoman Counts has issued a letter to the tribe announcing SNW’s intention to file bankruptcy. When I operated the Skywalk, it produced great income for the tribe. Now, they say that SNW can’t pay its creditors and therefore its needs the protection of the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court. This desperate tactic is clearly designed to delay paying me my $28.6 million in past management fees. It should now be clear to members of the tribe that the bad management by the Tribal Council is bringing the tribe to economic ruin.
My story is not being heard by the Hualapai because Chairwoman Counts is censoring what the Hualapai see in the tribal newsletter, Gamyu. Anyone who wants to read the truth can find it at www.grandcanyonskywalkfacts.com.
David Jin is the president and CEO of Grand Canyon Skywalk Development, LLC.