Wintergreen Subject of Antitrust Suit

A real estate agency has filed suit in federal court against Wintergreen and Roy Wheeler, accusing them of colluding in violation of state and federal anti-monopoly laws, Brian McNeill writes in the Progress. Mountain Area Realty says that they’ve been shut out of the market by the exclusive marketing relationship, and they’re seeking $6M in damages. The firm says that Real Estate III and Montague Miller have shuttered their Wintergreen offices as a result of the deal (Montague Miller disagrees). In a rare display of candor, Mountain Area Realty’s attorney says that attorneys’ fees on both sides will be “umpteen-jillion dollars.”

Real estate agent Jim Duncan figures this could have a far-reaching impact on any “exclusively marketed by” deals, while attorney Jennifer McKeever points out that having a monopoly isn’t actually illegal, and that the case should move through pretty quickly. Plus, the Sherman Antitrust Act has basically gone unenforced since President Bush took office; I can’t see that changing now.

7 thoughts on “Wintergreen Subject of Antitrust Suit”

  1. This sound kind of like an odd law suit but I do not understand all of the issues at stake. I do know that Bo Newell is not a dumb guy and would not begin this type of action if it had no shot of winning.

  2. This may be the dumbest lawsuit filed so far this year. Cooperative, contractualized, co-branding is practiced by “umpteen-jillion” businesses.

    I have no financial interests in any of the parties, etc.

  3. Cooperative, contractualized, co-branding is practiced by “umpteen-jillion” businesses.

    Except in most businesses you aren’t spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on one purchase, and don’t need a hired representative to assist you with the sale and make sure you aren’t getting screwed.

    From the DP article:

    Because resort properties tend to be bought by tourists as impulse purchases, the typical Wintergreen visitor is likely to assume that Wintergreen Resort Premier Properties is the only viable company, Foster said.

    And as Jim Duncan points out on his blog:

    You would be surprised at how many times I have been asked by people whether I can, as their Buyer’s Agent, show them these “exclusively marketed by” developments.

    Then the issue of “Dual Agency” creeps into the picture. Is the person representing you, really representing your best interests? The answer is usually no.

    (I really have learned quite a lot about R.E. issues from reading Jim’s blog. It’s both entertaining and educational).

  4. This makes about as much sense as having a covenant saying that if you are going to sue Wintergreen you have to use Wintergreen’s attorney.

    This nicely illustrates the evils being visited upon people as a result of homeowners associations and/or corporate control of communities. Wintergreen is, for all intents and purposes, a town. It is a town ruled not by a democratic government of the kind which we have historically recognized as legitimate but rather by a sort of fiat system. It may have it’s origins in legitimate contract law but when you have an entire community living under such a system, you effectively have a corporation acting as a government. This is morally wrong and it is high time that the courts and state legislatures began to dismantle the powers and rights held by corporations in such arrangements.

    If the City of Charlottesville signed an exclusive deal with, say, Remax, and announced that all property owners must now use Remax as their exclusive agent for both buying and selling, we would all be up in arms. Wintergreen is, for all intents and purposes, a local government which has done exactly this. At least in the theoretical case of Charlottesville doing it you could vote the bastards out and get the law changed. But the people in Wintergreen have no such option. Democracy is denied to them. The Court must recognize the fact that Wintergreen is acting as a government without the checks and balances which all Americans recognize as necessary and legitimate.

  5. Real estate is one of the biggest rackets and most incredible rip-offs going. Absolutely huge payouts of arbitrary percentages for a bit of advertising and some so-called representation, when all realtors really look for is the sale, the sale, the commission, the commission. It is a myth that realtors will make sure you are not getting screwed. The shame of Virginia is that it is a “buyer beware” state.

    Wintergreen is really no different than any other development. Developers almost always keep a majority share in -and control of-the homeowners association, and make an exclusive deal with one realty company, usually with family connections. Look around.

  6. “Wintergreen is really no different than any other development.”

    How many developments do you know of that have their own police force, 911 call center, 2 fire departments, a full time construction crew, hotel, fleet of maintainance workers, a private municipal water supply, mass transit system, post office, 2 golf courses, a spa, tennis courts, horseback riding, conference center, 5 restaurants, nature center, daycare center, indoor mall full of shops, and oh yeah… a huge ski resort?

    Plus, Wintergreen is not for all intents and purposes a town. It is actually a REAL town, its called Wintergreen VA and it has a post office, its own zip code, and a “government”. Although it is not an incorporated town, neither is the county seat of Lovingston nor any other town in Nelson.

    Wintergreen is the largest town in Nelson county both by size and population. It is also the largest employer, with between 600 and 1000 employees depending on the season. The second largest employer, the electric co-op, exists primarily to provide the massive amounts of power consumed by wintergreen. After that the third largest employer is a single food lion store.

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