ON Thursday, Prime Minister Perry Christie started tongues wagging in Nassau as to the identity of the major international investors interested in the restructuring of the seemingly jinxed $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort.
“There are lots of people who want to help us fix it, who have expressed open interest in that property,” he said as he boasted that “we’re going to come out big and strong as a result of this whole exercise”.
He said “there are people who are major investors today in The Bahamas, with huge global reach, there are investors from outside of The Bahamas who are interested. And I presume by now the bank knows who they are ... I have had it confirmed by some of them, they’ve had discussions with the bank, and there are people, some of whom are so well known to the Bahamas in the resort context that people will be pleased as those names surface and to know that if those people are interested in being able to take that over, then it’s going to be taken over by a world brand kind of investor.”
In April, 2014, when he sold his family’s interest in Kerzner International Holdings to Dubia’s Investment Corporation, Sir Sol Kerzner declared that although it was the end of one chapter, the world had not heard the last of him.
“I’m a little older now,” he had said at the time, “and you can’t think one would achieve what I’ve done over the last 50 years, but I’m not ready to retire.”
We understand that he is very interested in facing the Baha Mar challenge. At his side is his long-time friend and adviser, Mr Andrew Farkas, chairman of Island Capital Group LLC, whose New York firm holds interest in about $150 billion worth of commercial mortgages. Mr Farkas is New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s former boss.
It was hoped that Baha Mar could be in business by the fourth quarter of next year. However, it is understood that much work still has to be done.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court granted China’s Export Import Bank’s request to place the resort into receivership. The move essentially sidelined developer Sarkis Izmirlian by removing him as owner of the project he had created and in which he had invested $850m.
We think that EXIM Bank in this business-changing exercise has learned much about how business is done in the West. When one considers that although to have functional literacy in written Chinese, one requires a knowledge of four thousand characters, yet with all those characters, it is understood that they have no word for “foreclosure”. After this learning curve, they will now have to find more characters to include the word to “foreclose”.
Although, if the news of the return of Sol Kerzner is correct, Bahamians — particularly those who have been made redundant — will be pleased. However, the general public — particularly Bahamian contractors — would be even more delighted if China Construction American (CCA) could be removed from the project and replaced by Bahamians. After all, CCA has already created enough problems for themselves at The Pointe to keep them fully occupied. Bahamian sub-contractors, who according to reports, have done a first class job at Baha Mar are owed at least $75m by the resort. (See Mr Richard Coulson’s article on page 10).
However, Bahamians are particularly upset that after so many years of struggle — mostly under the Christie government — to get his dream from drawing board to completion and opening, Mr Izmirlian has been completely sidelined. He had tremendous loyalty among his staff for whom he provided special training and created special projects. It is understood that certain members of government read sinister meanings into his Baha Mar “Nation”, which showed the ignorance of his detractors. Apparently some of them read into it that Mr Izmilrian was creating a “Nation” as distinct – and possibly opposed to the Bahamas “nation”. Having rival teams is common practice in high schools and universities to create competition and encourage team players to try to achieve their best. Such competition injects pride in a team and makes them keen to do their best and be the best.
Mr Izmirlian wanted his team to feel special. He encouraged them to reach for the stars and not to settle for the tree tops.
From what we have heard of their progress, Baha Mar’s little “Nation” would have been the best of the best in The Bahamas’ resort industry.
It is a shame that such stupid ignorance — particularly among our leaders — is holding this little nation called “The Bahamas” back.
With such myopic leaders, The Bahamas is its own worst enemy with a very bleak future unless there is change.