By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Shadow Minister of Labour Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday questioned why the government would not give Sarkis Izmirlian the opportunity to “buy back Baha Mar” seeing that the former resort owner “invested so much time and money” into the stalled property.
In an interview with The Tribune, Mrs Butler-Turner said Mr Izmirlian’s offer “seems too good to refuse” and the government should not just “push him aside” because of their “history”.
On Wednesday, Mr Izmirlian, the original developer of Baha Mar, revealed he had made an offer to purchase the stalled $3.5 billion dollar resort “at a price in excess” of the current undisclosed bid.
In a letter dated October 10, addressed to Liu Liange, vice-chairman and president of the Export Import Bank of China (CEXIM), Mr Izmirlian said his company BMD Holdings is prepared to pay 100 per cent of all “substantiated” Bahamian claims and all money owed to Bahamians and foreign employees.
He also said BMD Holdings will drop “all of our appeals and legal actions in effect within the Bahamian courts” upon acceptance of the offer.
“The government has been doing everything in secrecy which I have a concern about,” Mrs Butler-Turner said when contacted for comment. “I think the government should open this up, and if Sarkis is making an offer, seeing all the money he has invested, if his offer is better than any other offer, I think they should accept it.”
“I do not think they should be pushing him to the side. There is just so much secrecy, I believe in the best interest of the Bahamian people we need to know who the people are who want to purchase the company. The offer seems too good to refuse and why hasn’t the government commented on it? Personally, I think Mr Izmirlian has earned the right to have a seat at the table because of what he has invested - it seems like the right thing to do. I do not believe any other person or entity coming in to this country would have the people’s best interest like Mr Izmirlian. If it is a personal vendetta, they need to put that aside for the people.”
In August, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that the government and CEXIM entered into an agreement to have Baha Mar completed and sold to a “world-class hotel and casino operator”.
Last month, Mr Christie and a government delegation that travelled to London, England, to meet with investors were informed about the identity of the anticipated buyer for the beleaguered Baha Mar resort. However, he said he could not name the group because of the delicate stage of negotiations.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mr Christie said CEXIM has committed to funding the costs to finish the project and the resort’s general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas, will complete outstanding work. He said CCA would also resolve outstanding claims with its suppliers and contractors.
On Wednesday, Mr Izmirlian said he found it “surprising” that the undisclosed Chinese buyer was reportedly “found outside the receiver’s sales process,” when BMD Holdings was advised that all offers were required to be tendered through the receiver’s process “and the multitude of bona fide offers we have made were not considered because of that”.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson responded to Mr Izmirlian’s letter.
“The purported offer by BMD Holdings Ltd is a matter for consideration, in the first instance, by EXIM,” she said in a statement. “The government of the Bahamas will continue to work tirelessly in the best interest of the Bahamian people.”