By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision to limit the authority of provisional liquidators for Baha Mar was proof that the best solution for the stalled mega resort was at the negotiating table.
Mr Wilchcombe urged the entire country to rally for all stakeholders to resume dialogue, adding that the more than 2,000 Bahamian jobs in limbo should be the greatest driving force for all players.
His comments follow Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian’s show of support for last week’s ruling by Justice Ian Winder. In a letter written to the resort’s staff on Friday, Mr Izmirlian said the resort was emboldened by the ruling and looked forward to working with the provisional liquidators appointed by the court.
He advised workers that there would be no “immediate changes” to their employment status stemming from the ruling.
“While we would have preferred that the Supreme Court of the Bahamas not appoint a ‘provisional liquidator’, its decision – to appoint such a liquidator but with limited authority, and to schedule the hearing on the winding up petition two months from now – helps us move forward with our efforts to complete construction properly and open successfully as soon as possible,” Mr Izmirlian wrote.
“The Bahamian Supreme Court has made it quite clear that, in making this ruling, its present intention is to not have Baha Mar liquidated or our management replaced. In fact, we agree with Judge Winder that ‘It is truly regrettable that the parties have not found a resolution into the matter’”.
The resort’s CEO added: “We are also pleased that the judge specifically stated that an objective is to make sure that Baha Mar’s assets are preserved—which is a priority we all share.”
Last Friday, Justice Ian Winder approved the government’s petition for the appointment of provisional liquidators, but limited their scope to preventing the depletion of the $3.5 billion resort’s assets.
Justice Winder approved the appointment of a joint provisional liquidator, allowing the government’s application for three professionals from KRyS Global and AlixPartner Services of the United Kingdom to oversee the resort’s affairs.
The judge adjourned the continuation of the proceedings (the winding up petition) to November 2 to allow the parties time to make the necessary plans to reach a solution and/or applications to himself or the Court of Appeal concerning his rulings in this matter.
His ruling followed calls by US bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey for the parties to return to negotiations while he considers his decision on Baha Mar’s Chapter 11 filing in Delaware.
Yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said: “The rulings, whether here or in Delaware, are indicating that we must move towards some sort of dialogue. Hopefully something can be worked out, it’s going on far too long. The answer is at the negotiating table.
“The workers should be a driving force for any individual. The players should appreciate that some 2,000 employees are in limbo, the country is on standstill.”
“I’d like to see an effort made by all,” he said.
While he admitted that time was winding down on a possible winter opening for the $3.5 billion property, Mr Wilchcombe said he had not yet given up on the possibility.
“It can still work out before it gets to the crisis stage, there’s still room so let’s take advantage of it. The ruling gives a bit of a window there.”
He added: “The country should be pushing for talks, everyone, the workers, the church, everybody should be telling them let’s get back to the table before it gets to a point of no turning back.”
In court on Friday, Justice Winder approved Baha Mar’s strike out application concerning the government’s original petition filed on July 16 by the attorney general and dubbed it to be “grossly irregular”, adding that it was not compliant with the Companies Liquidation Rules of the Bahamas.
The subsequent petitions filed on behalf of government entities, including the Treasury and Bahamas Electricity Corporation were allowed, as the petitioners “at the very least show private interests in the development”.
However, Justice Winder determined that the Water and Sewerage Corporation and the National Insurance Board could not be counted as creditors as they were not listed under the Head of Agreements signed between the government and Baha Mar.
“The Gaming Board, too, is not a party to the Heads of Agreement,” the judge said. However, he noted that he would give the board 14 days to submit further evidence proving its standing as a creditor.
The stalled Cable Beach resort is said to be 97 per cent complete.