BILLINGS, Mont. — A federal jury awarded creditors of a Montana resort for the ultra-rich a $9 million judgment against the wife of the resort’s founder after she was accused of helping conceal assets in the fallout from the club’s bankruptcy.
The verdict against Jessica Ferguson was reached Tuesday and released Wednesday by U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Ferguson is the wife of Tim Blixseth, who founded the posh Yellowstone Club near Big Sky that went bankrupt in 2008.
Creditors represented by the Yellowstone Club Liquidating Trust argued that Blixseth transferred to Ferguson a jet, two yachts and a mansion in Medina, Washington in a fraudulent attempt to shield his assets.
Members of the jury largely agreed with the trust’s allegations following a four-day trial before U.S. District Judge Richard Jones.
The jurors said in their verdict that Blixseth and an entity that he controlled known as Desert Ranch transferred two companies — Kawish and Western Air & Water — to Ferguson “with the intent to hinder, delay or defraud creditors.”
Ferguson later sold the two yachts and jet and transferred $600,000 to her mother, Cherrill Ferguson.
The jury found Cherrill Ferguson accepted the money in good faith and without any intent to defraud the club’s creditors.
The Fergusons’ attorney, Paul Brain, declined to say if an appeal is planned and would not comment further on the case
The liquidating trust was set up to recover Yellowstone Club assets that Blixseth diverted to his personal use after he arranged a $375 million loan to the resort from Credit Suisse in 2005.
Trustee Brian Glasser said he was grateful to jurors “who saw past (Ferguson’s) claims of ignorance” and instead decided she intended to “further her husband’s unlawful scheme to outrun his creditors.”
The trust has received prior court judgments against Blixseth totaling more than $500 million. However, to date it has reported recovering just $141.07.
The Yellowstone Club emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 under new ownership.