Baha Mar’s original developer Sarkis Izmirlian.
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
IN a memo sent to Baha Mar employees yesterday, resort developer Sarkis Izmirlian said in his 13 years working on the project he “never imagined” he would be “fighting” with the government over the $3.5 billion property.
Mr Izmirlian also lamented that the project has “now been usurped for political reasons.” He also hit out at the government’s “deplorable” decision not to pay the resort’s foreign workers their salaries on payday last week.
His comments came a day after Minister of Foreign and Immigration Fred Mitchell reminded the resort CEO that his permanent resident status in this country could be revoked after his “attacks” against Prime Minister Perry Christie.
“ . . .Today we find ourselves fighting against the government of the Bahamas,” Mr Izmirlian wrote to Baha Mar’s staff, referred to as resort “citizens.”
“What was a commercial transaction to be dealt with by private parties has now been usurped for political reasons. The government’s attempts to appoint a handpicked liquidator is the wrong decision and our fighting those efforts in courts in the Bahamas and the United States for months and years will only lead to the slow death of the very thing we have been trying to create. The delays created by the winding up petition, the uncertainty of the process and the government’s inability or unwillingness to explain its plans has led to an untenable situation.”
He added: “After 13 years of working on Baha Mar, overcoming the great recession and being 97 per cent complete, I never imagined I would find myself fighting with the very government that asked me to invest in the Bahamas in the first place. Our position however remains the same, we will work with the government of the Bahamas cooperatively towards the rapid and successful opening of Baha Mar.”
As the fate of the property’s more than 2,000 employees remain in limbo, Mr Izmirlian stressed that Baha Mar’s main focus this week is to “explore ways” to pay its non-Bahamian workers.
Last week the government decided it was not going to pay Baha Mar’s expatriate workers their salaries although it has paid the property’s Bahamian workers for three pay periods since the resort filed for bankruptcy on June 29. Bahamian employees are paid bi-weekly while expat workers are paid monthly.
Baha Mar had received the green light from a US judge to access debtor in possession financing to pay staff while it was undergoing bankruptcy, however this order had to be approved by the Supreme Court of the Bahamas. The application was denied in this jurisdiction, but Baha Mar has been granted leave to appeal.
“The government’s decision to withhold payment of your salaries is deplorable and I hope we can prevail on the government to either pay the salaries to allow the debtor in possession financing (approved by a US bankruptcy court) to proceed,” Mr Izmirlian said.
“Our unwavering priority continues to be to reach an outcome that enables Baha Mar to complete construction and open the resort to the benefit of the Bahamas. However this cannot be done without our talented team.”
He added that delays in reaching an agreement means the opportunity to open this year is shrinking fast.
“The next two weeks are critical and we will continue to work in faith will all parties.”
Mr Izmirlian also said that on August 17, the Delaware bankruptcy court will consider a previously filed incentive programme for Baha Mar workers “in the event that we are left with no alternative but to temporarily maintain, rather than operate Baha Mar.”
In court papers filed in the US, Baha Mar previously revealed plans to reduce staff to a “skeleton” operation of around 50 workers if it cannot come to an agreement with Chinese stakeholders to get the resort open.
On Friday, the Supreme Court adjourned a hearing into the government’s winding up petition against the resort until August 19.
Last week, on the Star FM radio show “Jeffrey,” Mr Izmirlian said he did not think Prime Minister Perry Christie was acting in the best interest of the country as it relates to Baha Mar. He added that voters will ultimately decide at the polls if they agree with the government’s handling of the matter.
Mr Izmirlian has said his family has invested almost $900 million into the project to date.