Baha Mar’s original developer Sarkis Izmirlian.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
SARKIS Izmirlian, the developer of Baha Mar, is willing to commit up to $200m to jump start the stalled $3.5bn Cable Beach project, lawyers for the mega-resort told a United States bankruptcy judge yesterday.
During the bankruptcy court hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, lawyers for Baha Mar Ltd did not provide details of the terms necessary for Mr Izmirlian’s commitment for the $200m and other parties in the dispute did not respond to the comment from the Baha Mar attorney during the proceedings, which lasted less than ten minutes.
Baha Mar has also not ruled out appealing Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder’s decision to reject its application for approval of its US Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the Bahamas. A high-ranking source at the resort told The Tribune yesterday that no decision on the matter has been made as yet.
Roy Sweeting, the attorney who represented the resort during this week’s hearing before Justice Winder, said: “There isn’t a plan yet. We have to receive the judge’s decision before we can make (a decision on appealing).”
On Wednesday, Justice Winder said he would release the reasons for his ruling in writing within two weeks.
Mr Izmirlian has blamed China Construction America (CCA) for the delays that forced the resort to miss several opening dates. CCA says his development team mismanaged the project, in which Mr Izmirlian has invested up to $900 million.
Baha Mar, which when finished will feature a Las Vegas-style casino and more than 2,000 rooms in four hotels, is reportedly nearly complete, but construction stopped months ago because of a dispute between the developer and CCA. Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware last month but has been negotiating with the China Export Import Bank, which bankrolled most of the project with a $2.45 billion loan. However, no deal has been struck.
Baha Mar, the government, CCA and China Export-Import Bank will be back in the Supreme Court on July 31 at a hearing on the government’s petition to wind up the company. All sides have publicly expressed a desire to settle the matter out of court before then, even as the developer and its Chinese partners continue to make accusations during their legal proceedings in the Delaware bankruptcy court.
A top government official told The Tribune yesterday that it is hoped the temperature of relations between the various sides will decrease to a level that makes an agreement possible. In discussions with this newspaper, government officials have nonetheless been sensitive not to say anything on the record that could negatively affect the negotiations.
And with the next pay day for Baha Mar employees next week, officials hope an agreement could be struck among the parties so workers could be paid by the resort’s developer.
After the Supreme Court initially adjourned a hearing into Baha Mar’s bankruptcy application, the government paid Baha Mar employees’ salaries on the last two pay dates.
Baha Mar and CCA are said to be in ongoing discussions to reach an out-of-court deal. The China Export Import Bank will work out financial terms to support such a deal, once an agreement is made, the government has said.
What is unknown is whether the parties’ legal battles in the US reflect their current attitudes during negotiations.
On Monday, CCA filed a motion in the Delaware court seeking a speedy hearing for its attempt to have the entire Chapter 11 process suspended. The motion was dismissed, but in objecting to the request, Baha Mar on Wednesday accused CCA of being “selfish,” “reckless,” and of attempting to undermine their out-of-court negotiations. The resort also accused CCA of employing “litigation tactics” that have the potential to “punish and hurt employees, customers, critical vendors, brand partners, utilities, insurance providers, and other innocent third parties.”
On the same day, Baha Mar stressed in a letter to employees that the Supreme Court decision did not affect their work status. After the resort filed for bankruptcy on June 29, most of its employees were told to stay at home. Their fates remain in limbo until the Baha Mar impasse is resolved.