July 27, 2010 -- printable html


On the Trail of Yosemite's Monopoly Concessionaire

cont. from Page 3

Lujan cut the Japanese off at the pass.  Launching a media blitz, he denounced the introduction of foreign management into a national park concession.  Then he squeezed the new owner, Matsushita Corporation, because the firm hadn’t submitted the sale for prior government approval. Matsushita demurred, pulled up its stakes and agreed to sell all its assets to the park's next concessionaire. (22)

Enter Delaware North.  As part of its bid, the company accepted an unusual NPS provision that called for Yosemite's new concessionaire to not only buy YPCC at a set price, but to assume its environmental liabilities without placing any ceiling on the potential clean-up costs.  NPS had reported the existence of 27 underground fuel tanks which might be leaking, as well as the presence of asbestos in obsolete structures and other possible problems.  However, it never bothered to quantify those costs, leaving bidders in limbo about what to expect. (23)

The proposed contract terms also demanded that the next concessionaire reduce the amount of non-camping accommodations in the valley by 20 percent (15 percent in Yosemite Valley), consolidate souvenir and other retail shops into one or two locations, set aside a percentage of earnings for a capital improvement fund, and move the company  headquarters and employee housing outside the park.  In all, an estimated $100 million worth of demolition and reconstruction was expected over the life of the contract. Perhaps the only thing that could have made the deal more unattractive would have been to call for the establishment of a leper colony at Toulomne Meadows.

Cabin map of Curry Village

Reducing commercial clutter in the park??? Posted map of DNC's Curry Village entertainment hub.

In fact, many of the provisions would never be implemented. For example:

FEMA trailers used as employee housing

FEMA-provided living quarters installed for DNC's yearround employees after the 1997 flood. The site was later dubbed the "Trainwreck" because that's what the Google satellite image calls to mind. This photo was taken in 2009.

Could it be that the veritable Marshall Plan called for in the NPS prospectus was actually a ploy to discourage DNC's competition? John Emshwille's 1994 Wall Street Journal article appears to have suggested just that when he said of CEO Jeremy Jacobs, "He has sought help from local politicians and a president of the U.S., while using his vast wealth -- estimated at half a billion dollars -- to reward allies and punish enemies." As it happened, those competitors who did take a stab at the contract  invariably set limits on the amount of toxic liabilities they were willing to shoulder. DNC did not. (27) That opened the door for NPS reviewers to proclaim DNC the only finalist to unconditionally agree to all the criteria.  Congress would have to pass a law, the officials pointed out, if it wanted to legally block the award.

Of course, there was still DNC’s glaring lack of experience in the hotel biz to consider. The company promised to bring in staff from several Australian resorts it owned to direct that part of the operation. Well, it looked like foreign operators might be running the show after all. If Lujan disapproved, he kept it to himself. However, he left office a month later without actually signing off on the deal.

That weighty decision would fall to his successor.  Environmentalists feverishly awaited Pres. Clinton’s choice for the crucial appointment to head the Interior Department.  As it happened, his pick received support from both the Sierra Club and DNC. All those years of campaign contributions now paid off as Bruce Babbitt was sworn in as the new secretary of interior. After promising in January 1993 to take a hard look at the selection of DNC, Arizona's former attorney general announced six months later that it was too late for a re-do of the bidding process.  (28)

Once the darling of the conservation movement, Babbitt’s ratings within that sphere began to nosedive soon after that.  In 2001, after leaving the Clinton Administration, he went to work as a consultant for Latham and Watkins, described by Counterpunch magazine as “a big Washington law firm whose clients include some of the roughest environmental pillagers in the business.”  The article explained: “Babbitt defended his about-face by saying that he needs to make money to pay off his legal bills stemming from an independent counsel investigation into whether or not he committed perjury when he said he did not try to shake down Indian tribes for campaign contributions.” (29)

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt  ------- Delaware North Companies CEO Jeremy Jacobs

On left, Bruce Babbitt during his years as Secretary of the Interior.  On right, Jeremy Jacobs, Chairman and CEO of Delaware North Companies for the last 42 years.  Interestingly, Jacobs' three sons - but not his daughters - also serve as officers and directors of the firm.

And how heart-warming is that? Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, Jeremy Jacobs and Delaware North continue to show the world that no obstacle is insurmountable –  whether it's being caught redhanded aiding and abetting mobsters, eliminating company critics, propping up an industry that incarcerates or destroys thousands of animals annually, catastrophic floods and rockslides, or what have you. 

Like a bobcat, Jacobs always lands on his feet.  From such unpromising entries on his resume as operating "a notorious sports enterprise", to job references like "moral turpitude, is of bad moral character, and has a bad reputation for truth, honesty and integrity," the billionaire is today serving his third term on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board of the Department of Commerce.

Whether the family business will get to renew its mining claim at Yosemite National Park remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you’d like to make a wager, be sure to check out those private corrals at Max’s Sports Bar.

The author has worked seasonally for three of the top national park concessionaires, including DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite.  To express your views on the contract, write to
N.P.S. Pacific West Region, Concession Management, 1111 Jackson Street, Suite 700, Oakland, California 94607.  Telephone inquiries may be directed to Darby Watson, Commercial Services Project Manager at 510-817-1365.  Website 


22.    Lujan Misleading Public on Yosemite Plans, Two Charge.”  By Alan Citron.  Los Angeles Times 1/3/91.  http://articles.latimes.com/1991-01-03/local/me-10680_1_yosemite-concession  | Return

"Yosemite Concessions Contract.”  Proceedings of the House Comm. On Natural Resources. March 24, 1993. ISBN 0-16-041759-7 http://www.archive.org/details/yosemiteconcessi00unit    | Return

24.   "Shopping in Yosemite".  DNC Parks and Resorts Yosemite website.  http://www.yosemitepark.com/Destination_Shopping_SportShops.aspx  
 | Return

"An Unwelcome Surprise From Yosemite Innkeeper."   By Christopher Reynolds.  Los Angeles Times 7/29/2001.  http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jul/29/travel/tr-27835   | Return

Tourism Falls / Repaired Yosemite still awaits usual flood of summer visitors.”  By Harriet Chiang.  San Francisco Chronicle 7/14/97. http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/PAGE-ONE-Tourism-Falls-Repaired-Yosemite-2817809.php    | Return

27.  See note #23.  
 | Return

28.   "
Babbitt Refuses to Void Yosemite Pact."  By Marla Cone.  Los Angeles Times 6/24/93.  http://articles.latimes.com/1993-06-24/news/mn-6611_1_national-park   | Return

“Bruce Babbitt: Man Without Shame.”  Counterpunch 7/30/2001.  http://www.counterpunch.org/2001/07/30/bruce-babbitt-man-without-shame/    | Return

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