High court backs LeMond in property dispute at Yellowstone Club, but questions award value

The Montana Supreme Court ruled that three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond holds a legitimate damages claim in a property dispute at the members-only Yellowstone Club but left unresolved the question of just how much the claim is worth.

The high court's ruling on Monday came seven years after LeMond sued the club and founder Tim Blixseth for breaching the terms of a 2000 real estate deal.

LeMond is seeking properties worth millions of dollars after asserting that Blixseth reneged on a promise to give the cycling legend a five-acre lot in exchange for LeMond recruiting 10 new members to join the ultra-luxury ski and golf resort located near Big Sky.

LeMond's attorneys said he upheld his end of that deal, but the lot was sold to someone else after being enlarged to 28 acres.

High court justices upheld a lower court finding that LeMond deserved to be compensated for the breach of contract.

But justices questioned whether the lower court was right to award LeMond title to five different lots at the club valued at up to $3 million each. Those properties collectively are known as the "Overlook Lots."

Justices sent the compensation question back to District Judge Loren Tucker to reconsider. They noted that the case began as an argument over a single lot valued in 2000 at $1 million. Tucker "must provide sufficient findings to explain the scope of the restitution award," Justice Beth Baker wrote.

In a concurring but separate opinion, Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote that LeMond "is not entitled to a windfall on all of the Overlook properties."

LeMond attorney Trent Gardner said the original lot was expanded from five acres to 28 simply to make development on the site possible — a fact that should be considered by the court.

"That's what LeMond would have been entitled to. ... They would have had to expand it to make it buildable. Otherwise it's a worthless piece of land," he said.

Gardner also said that a million-dollar lot in 2000 — when the club was just getting going — would have been worth far more when sold several years later.

Blixseth, whose counterclaims in the case were dismissed by the high court, said in response to Monday's ruling that LeMond should not receive more than the $1 million value of the original deal.

LeMond retired from cycling in 1994 and lives in Minnesota. He is still a member in the Yellowstone Club.