Negotiations between Barrett-Jackson and Scottsdale officials are going nowhere, and a deal may not exist that satisfies both sides, City Councilman Bob Littlefield said Friday.
But despite auction house president Craig Jackson’s assertions Thursday that talks on a long-term deal to keep the company’s $100 million annual Collector Car Auction at West-World are dead, his representatives now plan to return to the negotiating table Wednesday.
Littlefield said it’s time for council members to take over the negotiations from City Manager Jan Dolan.
“Having the city manager negotiate with Craig Jackson is not moving forward to any kind of resolution,” he said. “The result has been unsatisfactory. I want to fix the problem. I’m not looking to assign blame.”
Council members might bring a different perspective and break the deadlock, he said. For instance, Littlefield said he favors selling off a few acres of city-owned land at WestWorld for Barrett-Jackson to build its own auction house, while Dolan had previously offered the company a 20-year lease.
“I would have been cool with (the sale) because, after all, the city could have made some money and Craig could have built his own building,” he said.
Having the city build a new $80 million events center at WestWorld may be a nonstarter, he said. While the building previously had been billed as a dual-use structure that could accommodate both Barrett-Jackson and equestrian events, a recent survey of WestWorld users put the proposal near the bottom when listing improvement priorities at the city-run, 120-acre facility at 16601 N. Pima Road.
Littlefield said it will be a tough sell trying to convince taxpayers to foot the bill for “the Craig Jackson building.”
“Basically, the message that people sent to us was, ‘We don’t need it,’” he said. “Now it looks like we’re spending $80 million for Barrett-Jackson.”
He said a deal that obligates Barrett-Jackson to stay at WestWorld for 20 years may not be possible. Instead, Jackson’s current year-to-year option to renew could remain operative, and the event would continue to be held in the existing tent. The company already has committed to holding its auction there next year.
“Maybe there is no deal here. Maybe there’s no way to come to a deal that’s good for the city and Barrett-Jackson, too,” Littlefield said. “We need to make some decision about WestWorld because we’re talking about big bucks.”
It’s estimated the auction brings about $100 million yearly to the local economy.
Barrett-Jackson spokesman Jason Rose said Friday that the company’s lawyer, John Berry, and chief operating officer, Patrick Van Den Bossche, are set to meet with Dolan on Wednesday, although Jackson will not be present. Rose said the pair will listen to see if the city presents any new proposals to break the current deadlock.
“It doesn’t hurt to talk,” Rose said. “If the city has an additional proposal for Barrett-Jackson to consider, of course we’ll consider that.”
However, Rose said the company is moving forward with an additional event in Las Vegas that potentially could draw resources from and overshadow the Scottsdale event.
“The impression should not be left that the Scottsdale event is going away,” he said. “The focus now is on getting Las Vegas done.”
Jackson had walked away from future negotiations because he claimed the city had scrapped plans to build a new events center and because city officials refused to sell him a few acres at the facility so he could build his own $30 million to $60 million auction house. Jackson also complained that the city has refused to sign on to a long-term deal for 20,000 additional parking spaces on 77 acres the city owns north of Bell Road.
Dolan, on the other hand, has said she never told Jackson the new events center was off the table. She also said the city has not written off selling land to Jackson and has offered to provide all the parking he needs around WestWorld, just not on the parcel he desires.
Jackson’s announcement that negotiations are at an end set off a flurry of activity late Thursday, with Dolan calling him to apologize for any misunderstandings.
City spokesman Pat Dodds said Dolan did not make any new offer to entice Jackson back to the table.
Littlefield said the city doesn’t need to go into panic mode.
“We don’t have to react that way and run around like chickens with our heads cut off. If it’s true that Craig is jerking our chain, let’s stop letting him do that,” he said. “I like having Craig here, but nobody gets a blank check. If there’s no deal, let’s figure that out rather than go through this every year.”