By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The principal behind a $6 billion resort project proposed for eastern Grand Bahama is working furiously to submit documents requested by Prime Minister Perry Christie before he purportedly leaves the country on November 11.
Ken Russell, the former FNM MP and Cabinet Minister, yesterday told Tribune Business that he had told the Blackwood Pointe Resort & Spa’s principal, Lawrence McDonough, to get the papers sought by the Government to the Prime Minister before he left.
The documents, Mr Russell confirmed, were initially received last week, but had to be sent back to China to correct certain ‘errors’ on them. It is thought they relate to ‘proof of financing’ for the project, which is being spearheaded by Mr McDonough’s company, Kylin International.
“The documents should be back very soon hopefully, although they are not here yet,” Mr Russell, who is very much Kylin’s ‘public face’, told Tribune Business.
“We’re hoping to get to the Prime Minister before he goes off on November 11. I spoke with my principal in the US and told him to get that done before the 11th. He’s working hard to get it done ASAP.”
Acknowledging that the documents went back for “corrections”, Mr Russell said that with 13 days to go before the Prime Minister’s departure, he was “confident” that Kylin could meet the timeline.
“I’m hoping they come in time to facilitate a meeting before that November 11 date,” he added. “I explained to my man that the Prime Minister was going away, and to get it done before then, as we could get it moving forward while he was away.”
The Blackwood Pointe Resort & Spa project, which many observers have expressed scepticism about, appears to have gained momentum towards getting government approval after China Development Bank (CDB) emerged as Kylin’s lead financier. Additional financing is set to come from another Chinese state-owned entity, understood to be a construction company.
Many, including former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, had previously expressed scepticism that the Kylin project would get off the ground, with financing identified as the major obstacle.
However, Tribune Business sources have become more optimistic about Blackwood Pointe’s prospects in recent weeks, given the apparent willingness of Chinese state-owned entities to finance the east Grand Bahama proposal.
Kylin and its partners, who are said to include Fairmont Hotels, owner of New York’s The Plaza property, and hospitality firm Cipriani, are proposing to construct seven hotels and 2,700 rooms on a ‘greenfield’ site.
Other amenities confirmed previously include a cruise ship port, marinas, multiple tourist attractions, sporting facilities, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant, water and sewerage plants, and manufacturing facilities.
Mr Russell previously said the developers were projecting that every permanent job at Blackwood would create another three in the wider economy.
Based on Mr Russell’s estimates that Blackwood Pointe will create between 6,000-10,000 full-time jobs, it thus appears the developers are forecasting that the spin-off impact will generate another 18,000-30,000 employment opportunities.
Tribune Business previously reported how both the former Ingraham administration and Hutchison Whampoa, Grand Bahama Development Company’s (Devco) managing partner, were extremely sceptical that Kylin could raise the necessary project financing when it looked at developing the Sharp Rock site within the Port area.
The company, which is headed by Mr McDonough and his Chinese-born wife, some of whose family hold senior positions within the Beijing government, initially targeted a $1 billion development in the Sharp Rock area of Freeport before focusing on eastern Grand Bahama.
The Sharp Rock development, as originally conceived, was contingent on acquiring 2,000 acres, at a purchase price of $100 million, from a combination of Devco and Port Group Ltd, the latter being the GBPA’s sister company and affiliate.
A copy of the original 2010 Kylin submission to the Government, which has been obtained by Tribune Business, talked of constructing five luxury hotels, a cruise ship port, Blue Flag Marina, and gaming, retail and restaurant facilities.
“Kylin will invest more than $1 billion in the physical development of the resort,” the submission said. “It is anticipated that the resort will employ over 5,000 staff.
“Kylin has negotiated a construction loan commitment in the amount of $1.5 billion from Beijing Construction-Engineering Group. While an agreement in principal has been reached, the loan commitment is contingent upon the approvals of the Port Authority and Government of the Bahamas.”
Tribune Business sources previously confirmed that when Hutchison attempted to do due diligence on Mr McDonough, several details – including an address given for an office on the outskirts of Shanghai – did not check out.
This, though, has been disputed by other Tribune Business sources, who have informed this newspaper that all the details and promises given by Mr McDonough to-date – including the office address – have been confirmed and fulfilled.