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The Queen may be back

Jenifer Ragland

Lake Tahoe Cruises, Inc., President Patt Herfindal on Friday announced an agreement that should allow the Tahoe Queen to resume tour boat operations at Ski Run Marina.

The deal, signed with San Francisco-based Hornblower Development Corporation, requires the two companies to explore options including sub-lease, charter or buyout possibilities.

Terry MacCrae, Hornblower’s president, on Friday verified the existence of the agreement and expressed his company’s willingness to work with Lake Tahoe Cruises.

Officials from both companies are scheduled to begin negotiations today on a plan of action.

Herfindal took over management of Lake Tahoe Cruises after her brother and company founder Joe Thiemann was killed Feb. 26 during an armed attack on Ski Run Marina owner Michael Phillips.

“From the moment of Joe’s death we began to examine ways in which we could keep Lake Tahoe Cruises in operation,” Herfindal said. “(The Tahoe Queen) is a huge asset to the community, and in the four weeks I’ve been president of the company, that’s been validated over and over.”

Phillips and his partner, Dena Schwarte, in December authorized Hornblower Dining Yachts to take over tour boat operations at the marina. Lake Tahoe Cruises operated the Tahoe Queen at the marina since the vessel was built in 1983. Phillips cited a history of disputes with Joe Thiemann as the main reason he and his partner chose to not renew Lake Tahoe Cruises’ most recent one-year lease.

Hornblower operates boat tours out of ports in San Diego, Marina Del Rey and San Francisco. Company officials had reportedly negotiated buying the Tahoe Queen prior to Thiemann’s death, but the two parties were unable to strike a deal.

“When we took over the company, we were contacted by (Hornblower) to resurrect those previous discussions, and basically, that’s what we’re continuing,” Herfindal said.

Michael Thiemann, special administrator to his deceased brother’s estate, believes Lake Tahoe Cruises’ operating permit for Ski Run Marina is still valid.

Jim Lawrence, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency associate planner, said that Lake Tahoe Cruises does have a valid permit for Ski Run Marina. Still, other requirements must be fulfilled before operations can resume.

“Whatever happens, before the Tahoe Queen operates again, we want to see an operating plan,” he said. “The agency also needs authorization from the owners of Ski Run Marina.”

Michael Thiemann hopes to have the tour boat back in operation by mid-April. He acknowledges that unknown variables could push this date to May 1.

Besides the negotiations with Hornblower representatives, Lake Tahoe Cruises officials have been negotiating a settlement with creditors who obtained a federal seizure order on the Tahoe Queen on Feb. 28. That order was subsequently stayed by the court to allow Thiemann’s heirs to resolve debt issues with the creditors.

“We will try to figure out the best way to operate as soon as possible and in most profitable manner,” said Michael Thiemann, who claims that the reason the boat was ordered seized was due to the creditors’ initial uncertainty about the company’s future.

“The real bottom line is everyone wants this to work. Nobody wants to seize the boat, and everyone will have the money back that they are owed.”


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