Top 10 of 2010: No. 6: David Weyrich's businesses continue collapse

The countdown continues for the Top 10 Stories of 2010 as selected by the Tribune editorial staff. The series publishes every day, culminating New Year’s Day with the top story.

Once the owner of a chain of local newspapers, a small fleet of jets, wineries, hotels and land, Paso Robles businessman and developer David Weyrich saw his portfolio collapse this year as lenders began foreclosing on his properties.

That’s expected to continue into 2011, as lawsuits seeking the sale of his assets continue in the courts and Weyrich negotiates with creditors.

Most recently, the Paso Robles City Council chose a San Luis Obispo firm to continue services that Weyrich left behind when his Paso Robles Jet Center was evicted in April from Paso Robles Municipal Airport for not paying the lease and for having poor reliability on fuel supply.

A foreclosure auction is set for Jan. 4 on Weyrich’s 49 remaining home lots at Santa Ysabel Ranch — about 500 acres of home lots in Templeton, according to a lender.

Weyrich, trustee of the ranch, defaulted on an about $23 million loan through Lafayette-based R.E. Loans Inc. that packages the ranch with The Carlton Hotel, which the firm is also foreclosing on.

But instead of auctioning the landmark Atascadero hotel, R.E. Loans consultant Rick Dishnica said in November that they are negotiating a forbearance agreement on the property. That means the firm will delay taking action on the hotel until a time Weyrich and the lenders agree on.

In July, Los Angeles-based San Antonio Winery bought Weyrich’s Martin & Weyrich tasting room at Buena Vista Drive and Highway 46 in Paso Robles.

The tasting room was part of the Martin & Weyrich real estate that creditors had foreclosed on in February because of an estimated $17 million in unpaid debts.

Other properties foreclosed on by Netherlands-based lender Aegon Group included the luxury bed and breakfast Villa Toscana, York Mountain winery, Jack Ranch Vineyard and several hundred acres of other vineyards.

In the past 10 years, Weyrich invested in real estate, including residential subdivisions, hotels and wineries. He also bought a chain of community newspapers in San Luis Obispo County, called the Gazette, (which he eventually sold) and the North American Jet Charter Co.

The collapse of his business holdings began in earnest in 2009, when two large lenders, Wells Fargo Equipment Finance and Key Equipment Finance, won a suit against Weyrich, claiming he owed them more than $22 million.

He was forced to close his Paso Robles jet charter business — which had proved unprofitable — and creditors foreclosed on the jets that they held as collateral.

Weyrich, his family and his attorneys haven’t discussed in detail how the businessman’s portfolio ran into troubles, generally declining comment.

But in 2009, the Weyrich family sent The Tribune an e-mail addressing the issues in general terms.

“These are troubling economic times that have impacted the value of most classes of assets, the bottom lines of most operating companies, and has been tough for many families across the economic spectrum,” the statement read.