Hualapai Tribe Declares Eminent Domain to Manage Grand Canyon Skywalk
Jin partnered with the Hualapai Tribe to build the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that suspends 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor on the reservation. The destination opened in 2007 and draws about 300,000 visitors a year.
But the two parties have been at odds over the contract and revenue sharing. The tribe also contends Jin has not fulfilled his contractual obligation to complete a visitor center for tourists to pass through to access the Skywalk.
Jin and the tribe signed an agreement that they would split revenues for 25 years in exchange for Jin’s $30 million investment, previously reported the Associated Press. The investor who originally hails from Shanghai, China is also supposed to receive a portion of proceeds from the scores of Asian tourists he draws to the reservation. Jin collected part of his dues in 2007, he says, although the tribe failed to provide accounting to back up the payment.
On February 7, 2012, the tribal council voted to declare eminent domain over the management contract and compensate Jin with $11 million—roughly one-tenth of what Jin alleges is fair market value for his initial $30 million investment.
"The Tribe did not ask for this dispute," Councilman Charles Vaughn said in a statement. "But we have made a sincere effort through private negotiations with Mr. Jin, and he still refuses to make the most basic concessions and complete the work he promised. His participation has been unproductive and created countless delays. At this point, there are simply no other options."
According to Jin's attorney, Mark Tratos, the tribe's move is a desperate attempt to hide the drastic decline in ticket sales on the tribe's watch and prevent paying Jin the millions of dollars in management fees owed to him.
"They want all decisions to be made by tribal judges that they hire, fire and pay, and have resisted all efforts to have an independent judge or arbiter fairly review the facts," Tratos told the AP. "Mr. Jin has been their partner for more than 20 years, and his counsel asserts the tribe has awarded themselves this draconian power to strip Mr. Jin's company of its constitutional rights."