CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge has ordered a Colorado man to pay $12.5 million for failing to close on a ranch purchase in Wyoming in 2008.
U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne last week ordered Phillip A. Wolf, of Golden, Colo., to make the payment to Beaver Creek Land & Cattle LLC.
Johnson ruled the Wyoming company lost money when Wolf didn't close on the $62.5 million purchase of the Lost Peaks Ranch. The ranch includes about 76,000-acres of deeded land and about 75,000 acres of leased BLM land near Thermopolis, court records say.
Johnson's written opinion, entered Friday, says Beaver Creek had agreed to purchase the ranch from owners Frank and Karen Robbins for $50 million. Before taking possession of the ranch, Beaver Creek entered into an a contract to sell the ranch to Wolf.
Johnson wrote that Wolf knew Beaver Creek intended to use Wolf's payment to acquire the property from the Robbinses in a simultaneous closing. The contract contained no provision that closing the purchase was contingent on financing, the judge said.
Beaver Creek terminated talks with another potential ranch buyer once it entered the agreement with Wolf, Johnson wrote. Wolf didn't put up earnest money, and although he said he intended to convert bonds to purchase the ranch, no funds arrived by the scheduled closing, Johnson wrote.
Lawyer Bret F. King of Jackson represented Beaver Creek.
"I would say that is certainly a large award, but it was warranted," King said. "Mr. Wolf entered into a contract for $62.5 million to buy an extraordinarily fantastic piece of property, and he defaulted on it."
King said Wolf's actions affected a number of people. He said the Robbinses had intended to use money from their ranch sale to buy another property in Montana, and the people they were buying from had intended to buy other property elsewhere.
Wolf runs Wolf Interstate Leasing and Sales, a vehicle dealership west of Denver. The business has attracted attention for a billboard, visible from Interstate 70, that features a caricature of President Barack Obama with the words "birth certificate, prove it!" and other controversial statements.
Johnson held a trial without a jury on the case in late May. Although Wolf represented himself in the case, he didn't appear for the trial.
Wolf filed a number of unusual pleadings in the case, some of which Johnson dismissed as "nonsense" and ordered stricken.
Wolf tried unsuccessfully to get Johnson removed from the case and also sought unsuccessfully to file his own "criminal complaint" against King and the principals of Beaver Creek, identified in court records as Anthon Stauffer and Josh Romney.
Stauffer, of Sandy, Utah, declined comment. Efforts to reach Romney, of Salt Lake City, were unsuccessful.
Wolf said he plans to appeal and plans to represent himself in court again.
"I don't believe something this egregious could be upheld," he said.