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Tahoe Queen ordered sized in wake of owner’s death

Associated Press and staff reports

Days after Lake Tahoe Cruises, Inc., President Joe Thiemann was shot to death in the home of his former business associate, his tour boat was ordered seized by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on Friday ordered the federal marshal in Sacramento to seize the Tahoe Queen, acting at the request of a Nevada couple who hold a mortgage in excess of $900,000 on the 119-foot boat.

Rudolph Gersick, and his wife, Gertrude, may now advertise and sell the 500-passenger boat to help satisfy the debt, but other parties who claim a financial stake in the boat could legally challenge the sale.

Contacted at his home Sunday in Skyland, Nev., Gersick declined to comment about the situation.

Thiemann, 45, was fatally shot Wednesday at the home of Michael Phillips, co-owner of Ski Run Marina, where the boat operated for more than a decade prior to its Feb. 19 eviction.

Thiemann allegedly tried to shoot Phillips and Vernon Veraza, an 18-year-old youth who considered Phillips his guardian, police said. But the weapon didn’t fire and in the ensuing struggle, the teen-ager shot Thiemann.

The confrontation occurred just hours after the California-Nevada Tahoe Regional Planning Agency rejected Thiemann’s bid to operate the Tahoe Queen out of Timber Cove Marina, where the boat is now docked. Thiemann needed the agency’s approval to stay in business.

The Gersicks loaned $650,000 to Thiemann and his company in 1992, according to court documents. The next year the amount of the loan was boosted to $1 million.

By September 1994 it was paid down to $770,056, but Thiemann’s failure to make timely mortgage payments had it back up to $904,658 at the end of 1995, according to the papers.

Thiemann had recently been trying to secure a roughly $2 million loan to refinance his business, according to Robert Tamietti, a Truckee-based attorney who represented Lake Tahoe Cruises.

The loan was contingent upon several factors, including a permit to resume operations following the eviction from Ski Run Marina.

Another factor was reorganizing existing liens on the Tahoe Queen and the company’s two other boats, the Miss Tahoe and Tahoe Princess.

The state of California in 1994 placed $200,000 in liens on the vessels to ensure Lake Tahoe Cruises would comply with settlement terms to a lawsuit accusing the company of dredging a channel in 1988 in Ski Run Marina without all necessary permits.

Other encumberances reportedly also exist on the company and its assets.

Mike Crow, deputy attorney general, last week said his office had been cooperating with Lake Tahoe Cruises’ refinancing efforts.

“We were hopeful that if he obtained refinancing, we’d be able to settle our dispute with him,” Crow said.

During the past year, Thiemann had also been in talks with Hornblower Dining Yachts about a possible sale of the Tahoe Queen to the San Francisco-based tour boat operator.

Hornblower last December signed an agreement with Phillips and his partner, Dena Schwarte, to take over tour boat operations at Ski Run Marina.

Hornblower Vice President Craig McCabe on Friday said his company and Thiemann “were not that far apart” on a price, although he declined to disclose specific terms.

One industry source estimated the value of the Tahoe Queen at about $2 million.

In January, Lake Tahoe Cruises installed four new diesel engines in the Tahoe Queen with a reported price tag of $125,000 plus installation costs. The engines have not yet been paid for, said Vern Patterson of NC Machinery, the Tacoma, Wash., company that sold the engines to Lake Tahoe Cruises.

Phillips, during Wednesday’s TRPA meeting, said a 1996 appraisal on Thiemann’s business estimated the value of Lake Tahoe Cruises at roughly $3.5 million.

Phillips said he had the appraisal performed on the business because he was trying to arrange a possible buy out of Lake Tahoe Cruises.

Tribune staff writer Rob Bhatt contributed to this story.


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