Great River Journey goes under

Great River Journey's investors have been soaked. The swanky eco-tourism outfit is bankrupt. Its assets are now being picked over by the first secured creditor in line: the Business Development Bank of Canada.

Great River Journey’s investors have been soaked.

The swanky eco-tourism outfit is bankrupt. Its assets are now being picked over by the first secured creditor in line: the Business Development Bank of Canada. It’s owed more than $2 million.

“I doubt the BDC will receive their full money,” said bankruptcy trustee Richard Robinson.

That leaves two other secured creditors all wet. One is a consortium of four First Nations – the Kwanlin Dun, Ta’an Kwach’an, Tr’ondek Hwech’in and Selkirk First Nations – which collectively invested $1.1 million.

The other secured creditor is a group of Calgary venture capitalists who held a controlling interest in Great River Journey. This group was led by George Asquith, a Whitehorse lawyer who was the brains behind the tourism venture.

They’ve sunk $5.13 million into the company. Of that, Asquith contributed $800,000.

There are also 76 unsecured creditors, from Aasman Design to Yukon Yamaha, with debts that will go unpaid. Among them are contractors who provided the labour and supplies to help build Great River Journey’s three fancy cabins in the wilderness. Dog mushers and fuel suppliers will also go unpaid.

Asquith is also listed among these unsecured creditors, with a CIBC Visa account with $193,373.34 outstanding.

The company’s creditors are collectively owed $10.4 million.

Three properties, under the BDC’s possession, are to be listed with Whitehorse’s Redwood Realty once they receive final appraisal.

One, the site of a small cabin on Coffee Creek, 140 kilometres south of Dawson City, is valued at $41,000.

Another is the site of a chalet and small cabins on the southeast end of Lake Laberge. It’s valued at $746,000 – about half of the cost of building the facilities in such a remote location, from the appraiser’s estimate.

Great River Journey was formed in 2007 with the hope of persuading rich boomers to part with $6,500 for a week-long tour down the Yukon River.

Guests would be sheltered from rain and wind in Plexiglas-clad motorboats as they travelled the river, and regaled along the way with gold rush lore and First Nation history. Later, they would nosh on fine local foods such as caribou steaks, then retire to plush cabins replete with flush toilets and claw-foot bathtubs.

But the company found itself short of cash after its disappointing debut last summer. Asquith has blamed the global economic downturn for keeping potential customers at home just as the company was getting off the ground. He maintains the only problem with the business was its timing.

The Yukon government gave $630,000 in grants to Great River Journey. But it balked this spring when Asquith asked to be bailed out.

Asquith got into the tourism business while helping a friend launch a successful submarine tour company in the Cayman Islands. He didn’t respond to several phone calls before deadline.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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