Liko Smith: A new owner for Sugar Loaf?

Liko Smith: A new owner for Sugar Loaf?

UPDATE 4/10: A reader sent a collection of annotated links that offers some interesting reading.

UPDATE 4/8: TV 7&4 has a report that includes an interview with Liko Smith that addresses tax issues. Definitely worth watching!

Sugar Loaf, Chair 33Yesterday the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported that Liko Smith, a Las Vegas-based entrepreneur is working to purchase Sugar Loaf Resort in Leelanau County:

The Las Vegas-based entrepreneur has big plans for Leelanau County’s long-shuttered Sugar Loaf Resort, and he wants it open in a hurry. If all goes according to plans, he’ll plunk down millions and have 100 rooms open at the resort’s hotel by July 4.

“The key to this is speed and pragmatism,” he said Friday.

The once-popular resort that covers several hundred acres in Cleveland and Centerville townships closed in 2000 amid a sea of financial troubles and back-to-back poor snow seasons. Multiple attempts to reopen never materialized.

Smith, 39, said he’d spend about $10 million to purchase the entire resort, an attached golf course and a supporting water treatment plant, parcels now owned by separate parties. He’s been in contact with owners and hopes to finalize the purchase soon.

“All the contracts are being drafted; we expect to close by the end of the month,” he said.

sugar loaf viewThen yesterday, in response to a slew of internet postings, the Record-Eagle followed up with news that he faces felony grand theft and embezzlement charges in California’s El Dorado County, and is the subject of numerous derisive Internet postings about past business endeavors.

On Monday, Smith said “everybody makes mistakes,” and said he remains committed to the Sugar Loaf purchase.

“If the citizens of Leelanau County and Traverse City want that place open; I’m the guy to do it,” he said.

I did a lot of reading on Smith, both through articles about his endeavors linked from the Sugar Loaf Facebook group and other places as well as what he has to say on his web site. Sugar Loaf does need someone to come in and hit it very hard and very fast with a lot of money, something that Smith appears to bring to the table. Not having met or spoken with him, I find it hard to gauge whether or not he’s a person who can be trusted to get the job done. Here’s hoping…

The photos for this article were provided by Glen Arbor photographer Jeff Rabidoux. See these and a lot more beautiful landscape photos at



39 replies
  1. lex
    lex says:

    I understand the cautious attitude, however I still think his past failures have not all been that bad, plus he acknowledges what he learned from this and I thinke there should equal focus on his successes. Being in trouble for not paying his 2008 taxes on the Block(which he foreclosed)….well take a look at the Enterprise on people with deliquent taxes…the current Loaf owners just payed the 2007 taxes, nothing for 08 or 09. I’m happy we are all taking this seriously and wanting the best for the Loaf…I think we need to focus on the positives as well. If he has zero success in the past then that should be a focus.

  2. Andrew McFarlane
    Andrew McFarlane says:

    Well said. I am concerned that Sugar Loaf be embroiled in any more turmoil, but I do feel that we need someone to come in and take bold & decisive action. Hopefully Liko is the one to that.

  3. Bre
    Bre says:

    The best for the Loaf??? Seriously! If you want to look at the legal technical term for which he was arrested then it looks like oops I made a mistake, but its not hard to see it was more like I’m taking the money and running. A trick him and the Polsellis have perfected. I have yet to find one decent comment from former employees or investors. They all seem to say he is a very shady con-artist. Likos morals put stripper poles in his hotel rooms. Likos morals screwed lots of people out of money and now he wants to live in my back yard where I pay taxes. Well I’m not buying any part of this hot mess and neither should you.

  4. MortK
    MortK says:

    Look out Northport, this guy is coming to live with or near you. Now you will have to put his kid through college free!

    Interesting how his references and his background seem to be intertwined with Polselli! This is a really big farce.
    He said he doen’t know anything about ski resorts, but yet in the other other article in the Enterprise he owned one!!!

    LOL you couldn’t right fiction this good.

  5. lex
    lex says:

    Not sure if one of those comments was aimed at me. Wanting the best for the Loaf was in reference to all of us who live here or vacation here. I have suggested to them thru facebook that they should have a public meeting to clean the air and to show what their plans are, which they apparently are wanting to do. Was he my first pick? Was I excited that he is the purchaser? No to both. However, he has every legal right to buy the Loaf and we have the legal right to voice our opinion. Still, I rather our community find a way to work with him so there can be mutual respect. I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to everything, but if we turn this into a witch hunt…we make it just that much easier for us to get screwed. Hey, I have my serious doubts as well, but I also have some optimism.

  6. lex
    lex says:

    if anybody is interested, has some more information and updates. looks like they are going to have public meeting at some point

  7. MortK
    MortK says:

    Lex, You have got to be KIDDING!!!!!!!!! Get a hold of yourself man! would you jump on a burniong ship just to say you were on board?

    don;t be a local “I want to work at the Loaf so bad sucker I’ll do anything and get in bed with anybody” idiot! The place should be bulldozed, and start over. It’s a rat trap! And that guy and the connection to Polselli is way to comical. They are a simps dream, with 3rd grade wise guys!

  8. Steve
    Steve says:

    I think the community should thank this man for showing an interest and hopefully put some much-needed money into this ailing resort. He has given us aggressive timelines for completion of portions of the resort, which will allow us to see if he is a man of his word. I for one am sickened to see what was once a thriving resort now decaying to the point where nothing may be done to revive it. I feel that we should give this man a chance as he is stepping up to the plate and hopefully accomplish what others could not. The benefit to us (county residents) if he should succeed should out weight any concerns that may happen if he fails.

  9. Sara
    Sara says:

    I think so many folks just wanted to hear what they wanted to hear so they didn’t invesitgate Lilo Smith’s backgrround and credentials. Mr Smith is obvioulsy not an honorable person. Is this what we need to cure our Sugar Loaf problems? That is a dangerous way to do business and will NOT serve the best interests of Leelanau Co in the long run.

  10. Sara
    Sara says:

    After viewing additional information about Mr Smith, particularly his own website (which, in my estimation, makes him appear sophomoric and crass), I am amazed this man has garnered the support of anyone in the county (excepting, of course, those who stand to financially gain from the sale of Sugarloaf)

  11. Anna
    Anna says:

    Sure, go to his website now and he is asking for cash donations to go directly to his personal paypal account. Supposedly for hiring an archivist. Weird, considering he says he has millions of bucks….and he hasn’t even finalized the purchase of the resort!!! Please, someone find one good thing about this guy…

  12. farlane
    farlane says:

    A reader sent a collection of annotated links that offers some interesting reading.

    I would like to encourage people to keep discussion respectful.

  13. Anna
    Anna says:

    Respectful? As respectful as he was when he beat his wife? Cheated on taxes? Created porn rooms in his hotels? Sure, let’s keep it respectful. I give respect where it’s due.

    Wife-beating you say? Read it in Liko’s own words under the Comments section on his ex-wife’s blog.

  14. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    OK, so here are some things that jump out to me. First off, where is the money coming from to do this deal? His own personal accounts? Based on what I’ve read (much of which is in his own words) he has no money….at least not the kind needed to really get the Loaf off the ground. I then read his ‘update’ page on his site and he mentioned that Polselli was the only one who took him seriously as a buyer…the fact that Polselli’s name is linked anywhere to Smith’s is horrifyingly cringe-worthy… I know where the money is coming from! So, is Smith acting as the beard to put Polselli back in control?

    The other thing I have to ask is why this guy, why now? All of a sudden? There is a big payoff here for him and not just the “I want to do the right thing for my family and the area” He has no ties here to make me believe that. So, the Loaf gets opened, and maybe does OK for a few years, 5 years, 8 years….and then gets skipped out on again just like Polselli did….that’s the only thing that makes sense here. Remo puts up this kid as the front, gives him a great payoff (at the expense of the Loaf and the peeps of Leelanau)and sucks the Loaf dry once again.

    I am wanting so badly to give Smith the benefit of the doubt, to really believe he’s learned from past mistakes, and truly wants to restore the Loaf to its former glory, but the whole Polselli connection just makes my blood run cold…

  15. KarlK
    KarlK says:

    Yikes…looks like lots of folks want this plan to fail just so they can crucify the guy. Lots of folks just want to size the guy up for a coffin without another word and the hell with anyone who says different. But think about it…what if he actually pulls it off? Judging by what I’ve seen and heard from the non-naysayers who are actually following what Smith has been doing so far, he has already got more work done than all of the previous reopen attempts combined. Given that fact, I’d say the torches and pitchforks can stay in the shed.

  16. farlane
    farlane says:

    Another vote for success … but definitely not for more hijinks.

    The Glen Arbor Sun has a new interview with Liko Smith:

  17. Jerry
    Jerry says:

    I will say this for Liko; good or bad, he appears to be a shameless and unrelenting self promoter. However, his track record of business ‘success’ appears to follow that of Remo Polselli’s, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for a potential resurrection of Sugar Loaf. If he can pull it off, I’ll be impressed. Although, at this stage I’d remain leery, especially in regards to public funds.

    Should he obtain ownership of the property, I would not be surprised if he were able to accomplish his goal of reopening the hotel by July 4th. However, after visiting Lake Tahoe and seeing The Block hotel, one should not expect anything more than the proverbial lipstick on a pig.

  18. KarlK
    KarlK says:

    @Jerry – From what I’ve heard from several sources, the newer portion of the hotel building and the lobby/common areas are in remarkably good condition. It’s the north end of the building (everything past the stairwell that leads to Top Of The Loaf) that is basically shot. My understanding is that Liko’s reopen of the hotel only involves the newer portion of the hotel and the north end will remain sealed for now. IF that portion of the building cannot be renovated by ski season, then other arrangements will likely be made for ski patrol and the kids’ center.

  19. lex
    lex says:

    I heard the exact thing as Karl just said. Really curious to their meetings today to see what they plan on doing for the ski hill. Am curious about the chairlifts and the layout.

  20. mike
    mike says:

    Speaking for myself (and as a taxpayer) I don’t want his project to fail. But he, or more appropriately, his investors, are going to want some kind of either preferential tax treatment or direct subsidies for supportive projects such as sewage, roads, etc. His previous record and the general economic status of Midwestern ski resorts are perfectly appropriate topics of concern. We have had enough slick talking operators come through. We and the appropriate elected officials are obliged to consider the cost/benefits and risks involved.

  21. Doug
    Doug says:

    Hard not to be skeptical given recent past history at the resort, and the “don’t ask me how, just trust me” bravado of Mr. Smith. Makes me think of the tale of the Emperor’s new clothes!

    As a Leelanau taxpayer I just want it made clear from the get-go that a private business better not ask for public funding! And a ski resort better not become a Vegas casino and strip joint! Make sure this place and the owners always reflect the beauty and class of Leelanau County when it’s all done!

  22. Andrew McFarlane
    Andrew McFarlane says:

    Karl over at the “Friends of Sugar Loaf” Facebook group has posted:

    “The Quad Fund” kickoff at Red Ginger
    Liko is hosting a kickoff event for “The Quad Fund” at Red Ginger (237 E Front St, Traverse City) on Friday, April 30th. More details to follow.

    This will also be a great way for all of us to meet Liko as well as to meet the other folks who make up the “Friends of Sugar Loaf” Facebook group.

    More info on “The Quad Fund”.

  23. Stafford
    Stafford says:

    As a perma-fudge on the other side of the world at the moment, I just found out about this today. I read through his website and a page called the “Quad Fund” that solicits ‘donations’ from investors… Sorry, but those two words generally don’t go together in my book… Okay – so I’ll donate something. May I see your 501c3 credentials? I’ll invest, can you tell me what will be my return and when I can cash out? Something smells very fishy – and not in a good smoked chub kind of way. We don’t know this man at all. He has every legal right to buy the resort, but I would be very careful about ‘investing’ in or ‘donating’ money to him. He is in an excellent position to plea to the emotions of the community. “All we need is a quad chair and your dreams will come true! Just 1.6 million dollars! If everyone just pitches in a little…” caveat emptor…

    Something just doesn’t seem right about all his talk.
    But who am I to say? Those are just my initial thoughts from afar… Hope to meet him this summer. And hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

  24. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Liko Smith’s website lacks substance.

    I think a private investor tapping the public for donations through a PayPal account is odd, to say the least. Here are some things you may want to consider(from my comment on the Friends of Sugarloaf Facebook page):

    What kind of legal entity is the The Quad Fund or Friends of Sugarloaf… an LP, LLC, 501(c)? To which entity are the donations going? Are there any disclosure documents? What happens to the donations if the project does not move forward? Can it be assured that the funds will not end up going directly to Liko Smith? In who’s name is the PayPal account?

    Also, how is $50,000 (1,000 donations x $50 average, an optimistic projection) going to put a dent in a multi-million dollar project?

    I’ve never seen a professional investor proceed quite like this before. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  25. Travis Wood
    Travis Wood says:

    as a former investor and partner of Liko Smith’s, I would advise any and every one to STAY AWAY from this guy. He is a fraud in the worst way and is currently running from the IRS and Tahoe DA’s office. He scammed nearly 30 people out of over 3 millions dollars including his on mother in law for over 6 million dollars. DO BELIEVE A WORD HE SAYS. He is going by another name, I believe Sean or Sam. Google Liko Smith Tahoe The block and you will see all the BS this guy is up to.

  26. mike
    mike says:

    I am a little skeptical because it is difficult to see where the value resides for an investor into a new Sugar Loaf. Midwest ski resorts lost a lot of value over the last couple of years; why doesn’t he buy a going concern if he wants to enter the business. I fear he is either a rent-seeker or a scamster which we will soon find out.

  27. Nolan
    Nolan says:

    LOL LMAO, you people are falling for this hack of a nit wit?

    He has all these people and money coming to buy Sugar Loaf. Yea right, now he set up a donation fund to buy a ski lift? Come on folks this is nuts! Smells of Poselli; as Wickstom is off in a corner biting fingernails.

    Start drinking heavily.. it will all be fine.. LOL

    What a con job!!!!

  28. Sarah Smith
    Sarah Smith says:

    Hey everybody! Great to see you on these boards, all opinions, good or bad, everyones getting involved. If you want to express your opinions in person to Liko Smith, come to the event Friday night as he is unveiling his final plans for the mountain which he will own before the end of this month. There will be no further discussions as he has to order the equipment in May –

    Go to: . RSVP is best.



  29. Tom
    Tom says:

    I hope you people from the area of Sugarloaf are checking this guy out……he has a criminal past with a project in LA called the Block Hotel.
    I do not trust this guy and would question him far more than what i am reading. I know you all want to believe he is the one to save and redevelope SugarLoaf but I assure you he is not.

  30. Big Boy
    Big Boy says:

    Yeah, I googled Liko Smith. Nice criminal past…..Ties to Poselli….Chairlift fund?

    What happens when he buys this place and is bankrupt in a year? I’m sure the chairlift fund will go with him.

  31. Don't Blame Liko!
    Don't Blame Liko! says:

    It is evident that Liko is a crook. That has been established. Criminal and civil cases can tell ya that, along with all of the information people share online. So, if you invite him into your homes and hearts, don’t start crying when he does it to you. It’s not his fault. You have been made aware of what you are getting yourself into. The dirty feeling you will have at the end of all of this doesn’t wash off.

  32. Nolan
    Nolan says:

    Liko is lurking! So not a lot of support a the Red Ginger bust! the suckers that paid $100 bucks went a way shaking their heads. Slapping themselves for ponying up to be amused.

    So how many of you local “geez I need a job so lets open the loaf at any cost..I need to work theri, been waiting 10 nyears to work” are buying a bolt for his chair lift fund? One born every day!

  33. lex
    lex says:

    Next time, try thinking before you type, what you say might be more useful. So are you part of a group that just follows Liko around? This is not a community investment, it’s between Liko, his investors and the sellers. The benefit to the community is we get a good ski area back and increase winter tourism to help existing businesses. If it fails, well I’m sure there will be some flack, but the place is already closed. By the way, I do have a career and if I didn’t, I don’t see what is funny about wanting to have more jobs.

  34. Liko worse than Remo?
    Liko worse than Remo? says:

    Lex – the hope of opening Sugar Loaf is ubderstandable. Who doesn’t want a hurting community to be revitalized? My issue is that many people are willing to sell their soul for the opporunity. Liko has lost fraud cases against his former partners – and has not paid them back. The list goes on and on with this guy. You make a comment about the community that follows Liko around. The people that lost thousands of money with him, probably appreciate your comments about that comment about as much as you appreciated May’s job comment. The damage Liko (what happen to the Sean part of his name?)is real and Sugar Loaf is lucky he didn’t get any further along before he got caught screwing everyone. Get the Loaf open, but don’t do it at all costs by working with a guy who has a track record of ripping people off. Otherwise you might as well invite Remo to come back. I think Liko is actually worse.

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