FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Hualapai tribal corporation that managed the Grand
Canyon Skywalk has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after a federal
judge upheld a $28 million judgment in favor of the Las Vegas developer who
built the glass bridge.
Sa’ Nyu Wa contracted with David Jin in 2003 to share revenue from the Skywalk
that gives visitors a view of the Colorado River from beyond the edge of the
canyon on the Hualapai reservation. The corporation has assets of up to $10
million from ticket sales but owes creditors as much as $50 million, court
documents filed late Monday show.
The corporation is appealing the judgment while Jin’s attorneys seek to garnish
its bank accounts to help fulfill the award granted in arbitration.
SNW chief executive Jennifer Turner said the corporation cannot continue its
business operations. The Grand Canyon Resort Corporation _ which runs a tribal
lodge, rafting trips and other tourism operations _ now is running the Skywalk
and has hired the employees from SNW, Turner said.
SNW has a six-member board of directors. Its only shareholder is the Hualapai
Jin’s attorneys see the bankruptcy filing as another tactic to delay payment to
Jin. His company, Grand Canyon Skywalk Development, is by far the largest of the
creditors that also include food distributors, photographers, fuel suppliers and
a souvenir company. The filing frees Sa’ Nyu Wa from any lawsuits by creditors
while it reorganizes its finances.
“I’m sure the tribe will seek to pay pennies on the dollar, as they have all
along,” one of Jin’s attorneys, Mark Tratos, said Tuesday. “They’re not going
to change the strategy to not pay what they owe.”
The tribe and Jin have been wrangling over management fees and an unfinished
visitor center at the skywalk for more than two years. The dispute has led the
tribe to cut Jin out of the management contract through eminent domain and led
Jin to court to try to preserve his contractual rights. At least one tribal
council member who has been critical of Jin has been recalled, and two more are
targets of a recall election Wednesday in Peach Springs.
Turner and Hualapai Chairwoman Sherry Counts sent a letter to tribal members
Tuesday morning informing them of the filing. She said Jin will not have access
to the tribal budget or any tribal funding, as the bankruptcy proceeding
involves only Sa’ Nyu Wa.
The tribe has said it would pay Jin fair market value for the skywalk, which is
worth an estimated $18 million. The tribal court is overseeing the eminent
In a recent opinion piece, Jin said the Tribal Council should not believe that
its financial responsibility to him is limited to SNW’s liquid assets because it
has sought to take over his rights in tribal court. Jin’s attorneys have put the
value of the contract at $277 million.