By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Peter Nygard has assessed the still-closed Port Lucaya Resort and other Freeport-based sites as potential locations for a stem cell clinic, a move that has met with “100 per cent backing” from one of his biggest critics.
Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, when informed of Mr Nygard’s interest in Freeport, pledged that he would “roll out the red carpet” for the Canadian multi-millionaire should he translate this into a multi-million dollar investment.
Mr Smith who, as lead counsel for the Coalition to Save Clifton has led the legal action against Mr Nygard’s alleged “unregulated development” at his Lyford Cay home, urged the fashion entrepreneur to abandon any plans he may have had to build a stem cell facility there.
Tribune Business last year revealed that Mr Nygard and his team had held discussions with the Prime Minister’s Office about constructing a stem cell-type clinic at Nygard Cay, part of a total $50 million investment at his home.
This, though, was met with vocal opposition by both the Coalition and Lyford Cay residents, given that it would have involved inserting a commercial venture into a luxury community zoned for residential use.
And Mr Smith told Tribune Business yesterday: “Freeport needs Nygard; Lyford Cay doesn’t.
“I ask Mr Nygard the question. Why swim against the current at Lyford Cay, when you can swim with the current in Freeport.”
Mr Smith was speaking after Tribune Business sources informed this newspaper that Mr Nygard had been examining several potential sites in Freeport, in particular the shuttered Port Lucaya Resort and Yacht Club.
The property is owned by Port Group Ltd, the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) affiliate, and this newspaper was told the Canadian millionaire had been encouraged to look at the hotel by its owner.
“Nygard visited the hotel and other potential sites, but has not made a commitment,” one source with knowledge of developments confirmed to Tribune Business.
Ian Rolle, the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s (GBPA) president, did not return a Tribune Business phone message seeking comment.
This newspaper’s contacts also suggested that Mr Nygard had been eyeing the adjacent Port Lucaya Marina, an asset owned separately by Preben Olsen’s New Hope Holdings.
One contact told Tribune Business that Mr Olsen owned the docks around the Port Lucaya Resort, plus the access canal, meaning that any deal for the hotel would likely require a buy-out of New Hope’s assets, too.
That, and indeed, any deal, is some way off, and there is nothing to suggest that Mr Nygard looked at the Port Lucaya Marina as well.
Mr Nygard’s interest in Freeport, and stem cell research/therapies, is well known. He was feted by both the Government and Port Authority during a highly-publicised visit to Grand Bahama last year, and also appeared at last week’s STEMSO (International Stem Cell Society) conference that was held in Freeport.
Mr Smith said yesterday: “I understand that Mr Nygard has made several visits to Freeport, and is looking at the possibility of a first class stem cell facility.
“Obviously, as a licensee of Freeport, I would back Mr Nygard with such a plan 100 per cent. Freeport is desperate for investment, and Mr Nygard is a colourful character with a lot of pizzazz and money.
“He would make an excellent contribution to making Freeport the pride of the medical tourism landscape in the Bahamas.”
Mr Smith also expressed hope that Mr Nygard’s interest in Freeport meant “his misguided and misconceived plan for a $50 million stem cell facility at Nygard Cay would be abandoned”.
“He well knows that the Coalition and Lyford Cay Property Owners Association, as well as the Lyford Cay Club, are resistant and opposed to such a plan,” Mr Smith added.
“Any attempts by him to pursue his discussions with the [Government], as disclosed in The Tribune’s previous story, would be met by various court actions against him and the Government agencies.
“But a $50 million investment in Freeport for a stem cell facility by Mr Nygard would be a fantastic opportunity and investment for Freeport, and I would roll out the red carpet for him next time he comes, just like the Port Authority did.”
Mr Smith said that if Mr Nygard’s interest ultimately resulted in a $50 million investment, it would be “one of the biggest Freeport has seen for years”.
He added: “The infrastructure is completely in place for Mr Nygard to make a showcase stem cell venture, as Okyanos and others are doing.
“So there is no need for him to push the envelope and fight the resistance at Lyford Cay, when he has a welcome from business, and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, as the regulatory agency, in Freeport.”