BILLINGS, Mont. – The jailed founder of a Montana club for the ultrarich said he won’t answer a judge’s demands to reveal what happened to hundreds of millions of dollars in assets he drained from the resort prior to its bankruptcy.
Yellowstone Club founder Timothy Blixseth invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination in a hand-written court submission filed Thursday. Simultaneously, Blixseth declared bankruptcy in federal court in California for a business entity that his creditors allege was used to hide his assets.
Courts have ruled Blixseth fraudulently transferred $286 million from the Yellowstone Club prior to its 2008 bankruptcy. The club near Big Sky has a members-only ski mountain and golf course and an A-list membership that includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Blixseth has been in jail for a year for contempt of court under an order from U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon, but he has not been criminally charged. His attorneys have repeatedly asked the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals to free Blixseth but with no success.
Haddon on Friday rejected as inappropriate the hand-written Fifth Amendment claim from Blixseth and told him to resubmit it through his lawyer by the end of next week. The judge also said that Blixseth could not extend the right against self-incrimination to his business entity, which means he still must come up with an inventory of the entity’s prior assets and tell the court what he’s done with them.
The bankruptcy filing in California will allow Blixseth to maximize the value of his assets and begin paying off creditors, Blixseth’s attorney Phillip DeFelice said. It also puts on hold a lawsuit against Blixseth in Montana from some of his creditors.
The bankruptcy is expected to trigger the sale of assets held by Desert Ranch LLLP, a California entity founded by Blixseth in the days leading up to the Yellowstone Club’s bankruptcy.
Court documents filed by Blixseth and his attorneys claim Desert Ranch had assets of between $50 million and $100 million. The documents claim Desert Ranch has $1 million to $10 million in liabilities.