Attorney seeks release of jailed founder of club for rich

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HELENA, Mont. — An attorney for the jailed founder of a Montana resort for the ultra-rich asked an appeals court on Friday to release his client because his incarceration was unwarranted.

Tim Blixseth, 64, a one-time billionaire and the founder of the Yellowstone Club, was jailed Monday after being found in contempt by U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon for not turning over details of a $13.8 million property sale in Mexico.

The Yellowstone Club went bankrupt in 2008 — right after Blixseth gave up control of the private ski and golf resort near Big Sky that boasts a $300,000 entry fee.

Creditors have judgments against Blixseth for more than $250 million that authorities say he and his ex-wife, Edra, drained from the club for personal use. Those judgments, which Blixseth has so far avoided paying, include the proceeds from the Mexico property, sold in 2011 in defiance of a bankruptcy judge’s order.

Blixseth attorney Philip Stillman asserted that Haddon “ambushed” his client with a pre-written incarceration order during a Monday hearing in Helena. An emergency petition filed by Stillman with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requested Blixseth’s immediate release.

Haddon “sprung this order at the end of the hearing so there was no opportunity to address specific concerns the court had,” Stillman said Friday. “This is punitive. Judge Haddon wants him in jail to punish him. … How does the court believe Tim can comply with his order from a jail cell?”

Blixseth, of Medina, near Seattle, is held at the Cascade County Regional Detention Center in Great Falls, Mont.