By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Fashion tycoon Peter Nygard is planning to invest between $25-$30 million in constructing a stem cell research-focused medical facility at his Lyford Cay home, Tribune Business can reveal, a project that could employ between 100-125 Bahamians in the construction phase.
Confidential minutes of a meeting between Mr Nygard and Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) officials, which have been obtained by this newspaper, detail the Canadian multi-millionaire’s plans to add commercial uses to his Simms Point/Nygard Cay home.
It appears he has already begun to put those plans into action, as recent photographs of Nygard Cay taken by members of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay show that construction work has begun on what looks like a spa-type building (see picture here).
But, while Mr Nygard’s plans received a big boost last week from the Government’s decision to table legislation that aims to provide a regulatory framework for stem cell research in the Bahamas, his activities are again likely to trigger potential conflict with his neighbours.
Lyford Cay is zoned as a residential, not commercial, area, and the medical/stem cell plans are likely to give its Property Association and neighbours - including hedge fund magnate, Louis Bacon, with whom Mr Nygard has been embroiled in an ongoing feud - cause for further unhappiness.
And Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, also made the organisation’s concerns plain when contacted about developments by Tribune Business.
The Coalition is already engaged in a public campaign to pressure the Government to act on its previous demands for Mr Nygard to cease alleged land reclamation activities at his home, and Mr Smith warned the Christie administration not to give the Canadian fashion mogul the Crown Land grant/seabed leases he was seeking as a ‘trade off’ for the medical facility.
“The Coalition will expose any secret deals about to give Mr Nygard Crown Land or a lease of the seabed,” Mr Smith pledged.
“Neither will the Coalition tolerate a manoeuvre by the Government to promote stem cell research and then give Mr Nygard permits for Crown Land and to ‘grandfather in’ his past and current activities.
“Lyford Cay is a residential neighbourhood, and is not a commercial/medical tourism spot.”
The proposed stem cell/medical facility thus appears likely to act as the latest flashpoint in the increasingly public dispute between the Coalition and its members (including Mr Bacon) on one hand, and Mr Nygard and his supporters on the other.
The meeting between Mr Nygard and his team, which included Carlos Mackey and Melissa Hall, and the BIA officials took place on June 19, 2012, just over one month after the general election.
The BIA officials present included Sir Baltron Bethel, described as a ‘senior policy adviser’, and then-permanent secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, David Davis.
The meeting, according to the report, was held so Mr Nygard could brief the Government on plans to restore the parts of Nygard Cay destroyed by fire, and to “introduce the concept for his proposed Medical Spa Facility which will specialise in stem cell research and treatments”.
The report added: “With respect to the overall vision for the proposed project on Nygard Cay, Mr Nygard explained that he intends to invest approximately $50 million - $25-$30 million designated to restore Nygard Cay, and $25-$30 million will be invested in building the medical/health spa facility.”
The BIA notes said clients for the medical facility/spa would “flow from all over the world”.
It added: “The concept is to introduce anti-aging, age reversing treatments using stem cells. He [Mr Nygard] opined that stem cell treatment could also assist with many incurable diseases....
“Mr Nygard mentioned that his vision would be put together in an environment where the Bahamas can practice the most advanced medicine in the world, and do it within the regulatory lines of the Government.”
The BIA report said Mr Nygard promised the facility would host “top doctors” providing treatments not found in the US, once it was licensed.
“Within this facility will be offered stem cell banking and the banking of body tissue for medicine and treatments,” the notes added.
“Nygard noted that this facility would combine research and treatment. As a result of the investment, he could provide a revolutionary treatment facility.... The proposed project will introduce the concept of collecting stem cells and expanding them to replenish and re-boot the body a minimum of four times a year.”
The BIA report revealed that the stem cell/medical facility would be based “in the same location as Nygard Cay”, and that its owner “envisioned the Bahamas would be a magnet for medical tourism”.
The Canadian fashion mogul, according to the BIA report, said work permits would be required for Chinese construction workers to build the facility - a requirement that will be interesting going up against the Government’s new work permit policy.
Some 100-125 Bahamian construction workers would also be required, the report added.