Two Montreal entrepreneurs are sounding a cautionary note after an apparent con man duped them into a bogus plan involving the purchase and transformation of Mont Tremblant’s abandoned Gray Rocks ski hill.
Noah Redler and Mélanie Turgeon both allege that they worked for two months as consultants without getting paid. A convincing mystery man who claimed he had purchased the abandoned Gray Rocks ski hill told them he would transform the area into a “a new type of work-stay retreat concept, complete with coworking, innovation labs, even a music studio.”
Redler and Tugeon both refuse to out the individual’s identity and they don’t plan on reporting the experience to authorities. The pair of entrepreneurs said they wish to put the incident behind them.
As Redler and Turgeon wrote in a Medium post, they were never paid for work they did over signed contracts. According to them, they weren’t the only ones, either.
This man was a convincing character, his backstory was both intriguing and seemingly credible. He presented himself as a former owner of a construction company who sold his shares for a lofty sum which allowed him to travel the world, and in doing so, became enamoured with the coworking world and startup culture. After years of travelling and eventually settling for some time in the United States, he decided to return to Montreal to realize his dream of creating the ultimate coworking-innovation space…
As the names of people who quit their jobs and were promised employment, offered service contracts, or a part in the business, started to add up, we were shocked by the level of effort he had undertaken in order to keep us all involved. We spoke with students who were offered stages and summer jobs, they will now lose their school credits and need to start again. There were firms who were contacted to do the marketing, creating logos and branding; we can safely say they have wasted their time. Even a small staff was hired to work on the project, they’re contracts are now worthless. We all lost our time, none of us will ever get paid, our trust will not easily be restored.
-Noah Redler and Mélanie Turgeon via Medium.
Gray Rocks was a year-round privately owned resort in the Laurentian Mountains, first developed as a ski destination on Sugarloaf Hill (Le Pain de Sucre). The ski hill had 22 downhill trails. First opened in 1906, the hotel closed during the Recession of 2009. About 70 per cent of the main building was destroyed by a suspicious fire on the evening of November 25, 2014.
The Gray Rocks hotel and ski resort was closed in early 2009. Only its two golf courses, LaBelle and LaBete remain in operation during the summertime.
Turgeon, the former Canadian national team skier and a professional business coach, told MTLinTECH that she was first approached by the individual in early January. He told her his plans to turn the abandoned hill into a coworking innovation centre, asking her to be involved as a mentor or performance coach. Redler, who has worked in the past with both Startup Canada and Notman House, met the man around March when he visited Notman House while Redler was employed there.
“At first I was just listening to him and giving him ideas on how to manage a coworking space but soon after he asked if I wanted to work on the project and offered me a contract,” Redler told MTLinTECH.
But after a few months things began to seem out of place for the pair. They began pressuring the man to produce documentation about the sale of the mountain and everything related to the future plans, along with the money that he owed them for work they had completed.
“He kept delaying and coming up with excuses until we took the time to look deeper into this,” said Redler. “Melanie got in touch with the actual owners of the mountain, who told us that not only did they not sell the mountain but they had never actually met the guy.”
Turgeon said the man made it seem he was in the process of finalizing everything: “The offer was accepted, the lawyers and accountants were supposedly finishing the transaction and the sale was complete. It just needed to be registered,” she said.
The pair confronted the man last week, which was the last time they spoke to him. Since then they figured the best course of action was to publish their Medium post, which has generated significant discussion on Redler’s Facebook page.
Redler says he knows of at least 12 other people who were ripped off by the man, but he doesn’t know if anyone actually gave him money. Both Redler and Turgeon said they’re simply baffled why someone would go through so much trouble constantly updating them on the progress of a bogus deal.
“There is zero chance that he bought the mountain. Everyone we’ve spoken with has the same story: they were promised things that were never delivered. No one has ever gotten paid. Offices he rented were not paid for,” said Redler.
Turgeon said she feels “mixed emotions,” after everything that has happened, while Redler says the whole episode has caused him embarrassment. He wanted to believe the individual until the last minute and didn’t want to seem paranoid. That is, until they confronted the individual.
For now the pair isn’t saying much about the identity of the man, asking that we respect their privacy and their desire to move on. Redler said the current owners of Gray Rocks wish to remain out of the spotlight.
The story seems far from over given that dozens of others have apparently been duped as well. We’ll try to provide updates as it progresses.