By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A JUDGE approved a five-month delay of the government’s winding-up petition concerning the stalled Baha Mar project to see what unfolds in the ongoing sales process that has courted 16 prospective buyers.
Court appointed receiver Raymond Winder told reporters after the closed hearing that there was a “good expectation” the shuttered resort would be sold before the matter returns to court at the end of September.
Justice Ian Winder was due yesterday to hear the petition brought by several government agencies, including the National Insurance Board (NIB) and Gaming Board, to formally wind-up Baha Mar and place it into formal liquidation as a result of its inability to pay its debts.
However, in the chamber hearing before the judge, a third adjournment was requested in the matter since the government’s filing last summer.
Wayne Munroe, QC, and lawyer for the petitioners, confirmed an earlier report by Tribune Business that the hearing was likely to be delayed again.
“This morning (Thursday) there was an application by the petitioners to have the matter adjourned to the 30th (of September) to permit the sales process to go on its way and be completed,” Mr Munroe said.
“There is anticipation that the sales process could be completed and certainly an offer (by) early June. And so rather than proceed, the matter was adjourned to September 30. There are 16 persons who have expressed interest and so they will have a period to next week to put in their firm bids and then those bids will be evaluated.”
Mr Munroe could not confirm if Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian was on the list.
“I suspect that if he says that he is, he is,” Mr Munroe added.
Mr Winder, Deloitte & Touche (Bahamas) managing partner, was tight-lipped on additional details.
“We’re still working on it, we’re still working on it,” he said outside court. “We have a number of companies that have interest and so we’re moving forward. But I’m not at liberty at this point in time to share that information.”
When asked if there was a legitimate expectation that the resort would be sold before the adjourned date, he said yes.
“Good expectation,” Mr Winder said.
In March of this year, Baha Mar’s receivers launched a formal sales process for the stalled $3.5 billion project by hiring Canadian-headquartered real estate firm Colliers International to market it to potential purchasers.
The opening of the 2,000 plus room resort was scheduled for December 2014, but was delayed to March 2015 and again to May 2015.
Baha Mar’s developer then filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States on June 29, 2015; however the Supreme Court rejected the resort’s application for the matter to be recognised here.
A US judge later threw out the bankruptcy application for Baha Mar’s Bahamian companies.
Joint provisional liquidators (JPLs) were appointed in September to protect and prevent the depletion of the resort’s assets before an expected full winding-up of the resort took place.
However, the resort was placed into receivership in October and the status quo remains until otherwise asked for by the parties or directed by the judge.
At the previous scheduled winding-up hearing in February, Crown representatives admitted to Justice Winder that the initial two months granted to stakeholders to negotiate the property’s future was “over-ambitious” and unrealistic.
Mr Izmirlian is at odds with the resort’s general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas, which Baha Mar has blamed for numerous opening delays. However, CCA has placed the blame for the resort’s woes on Baha Mar executives, citing mismanagement as the reason the property is behind schedule. The developer filed a lawsuit against CCA in the UK.
In early April, Mr Izmirlian asked the president of the EXIM Bank of China to accept his offer to complete and open the stalled resort, promising to rehire Bahamian employees while ensuring that the bank will not have to take a discount on its debt. In other words it would recover its debt in full.
Mr Izmirlian’s offer would also ensure that unsecured creditors, many who are “suffering in the Bahamas,” would be paid, he wrote.
The letter was a follow-up to the offer he made to the bank on January 11, to which he said he received no response.