By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Key decisions on the Grand Lucayan resort's future will be made "in 30 days", the deputy prime minister says, amid growing suggestions the government will be forced to step in and acquire the property.
K Peter Turnquest, speaking at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of East Nassau, said: "There isn't much I want to say about that at this time. We have put some timelines on the negotiations with respect to that. I can say with reasonable assurance that 30 days from now you will know exactly what the answer is. That's all I can say about that."
His comments come amid rising talk that the Wynn Group's $70m deal to purchase Freeport's anchor resort property will not proceed, leaving the government facing the prospect of having to acquire the hotel itself unless it can put together a new deal or another buyer suddenly emerges at "the 11th hour".
The 30-day deadline likely relates to warnings from CK Property Holdings, the entity into which all Hutchison Whampoa's real estate assets were placed, that it plans to close the one Grand Lucayan property still open by end-September and walk away if no buyer is found. Mr Turnquest had previously pledged to Tribune Business that "the hotel will not close".
The government had allocated $25m in the 2018-2019 budget to an equity stake in the Grand Lucayan's purchase, estimated to be around 20 percent, plus fund the provision of airlift and marketing support.
The strategy for re-opening and revitalising the Grand Lucayan had always seen Wynn solely as the 'real estate owner', with a variety of hotel and casino brands operating the property on its behalf as part of the government's drive to convert the area into a true destination that is no longer reliant on taxpayer subsidies.
However, well-placed sources previously revealed to Tribune Business that the government was exploring alternative buyers to Wynn amid suspicions its deal as structured "is not going to work" and "doesn't make sense" - especially given the added pressure from CK Property Holdings warning that it will walk away.
"Wynn is expecting the government to pay for it, and they walk in as owner," one contact, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tribune Business. "I can tell you the government isn't interested in that, and has no choice but to start to look for another buyer immediately.
"Hutchison [CK Property Holdings] has said that come September that's it for all of it. Hutchison has confirmed that, in very short order, it will close the entire plant down. The tower and 200 rooms in the Lighthouse Point.
"The government of The Bahamas is going to have no choice but to step in and quite literally take over operations of that hotel regardless of what the cost may be."
The Grand Lucayan's post-Matthew closure has resulted in much of the property being shuttered for 21 months, causing the loss of over 1,000 jobs and 59 percent of Grand Bahama's hotel room inventory - effectively taking the island off the stopover tourism map.