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Super Value Chief '100%' Confident Resort Deal Close

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Rupert Roberts

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Super Value's owner says he is "100 percent" confident that the sale of his Bimini Sands resort will close as early as this week, adding: "I'm doing the island a favour by exiting."

Rupert Roberts told Tribune Business he hoped to conclude the deal this week after the intended purchasers, the Asplundh family, put their signatures to the agreement in Bimini on Friday.

Revealing that he was "too busy selling potatoes and onions", Mr Roberts said he needed to pass Bimini Sands on to a buyer with the capital and expertise to properly oversee its future development because it had become too "time intensive".

"We are there," he confirmed of the sale's imminent conclusion. "Everything is in play. We've been working it for weeks. I'd hope to sign some time next [this] week. Something like this involves a lot of details, and takes a lot of time to clean up."

Mr Roberts said Peter Maury, who he hired as a consultant to help oversee Bimini Sands' operations, had visited Bimini on Friday to obtain the sign-off from the US billionaire family that is set to acquire the property.

The Asplundhs, who originate from Philadelphia, trace the source of their wealth to their 91-year-old business, Asplundh Tree Expert, which cuts trees and vegetation for electrical utility companies.

Now under its third generation of family ownership, the company is described as a $3.1bn revenue business that employs a 35,000-strong workforce across multiple US states.

"I like the family and have a lot of confidence in them," Mr Roberts said. "I've met Mr Asplundh, he's a young 80s, and his son lives in Florida and he's involved." Tribune Business understands that the Asplundh family intend to re-name Bimini Sands as Bimini Cove, but few details as to their plans have been revealed as yet.

Reiterating his belief that they will transform the property into "a gem like Cat Cay", Super Value's owner added that the passing of his late Bimini Sands business partner some three to four years ago had been a key factor behind his decision to get out.

"They have the resources and capabilities to do it," Mr Roberts said of the Asplundhs. "At this point I'm doing Bimini a favour to exit for them to move the resort to a higher level. I always felt that the marina should be enlarged. We have less than 100 slips, and could go to 200. It needs that investment, and I think with a new investor that will come.

"After [Frank] Cooney dies, I'm too busy selling potatoes and onions, and without the eye of the master... You need the eye of the master to make it work. It's a difficult business from what I understand of it. The hospitality business, I don't have the expertise, so am giving it to someone who knows something about it.

"Supermarkets are so time intensive, and take time to manage. Being involved at Commonwealth Bank only takes so many hours in the Boardroom. I'd rather get out as this is too time intensive."

Bimini Sands currently features 216 condo units and around 60 marina slips. The Asplundhs are acquiring the 50 condo units yet to be sold, with just under half - some 24 - already furnished.

Mr Roberts said he was "satisfied to move out" based on the purchase price he is due to receive, which he declined to reveal. "I have a lot of acreage of land in Bimini, and maybe in future years my children and grand children will make money out of Bimini," he added.

"We still have to settle the water situation. We may stay in that, we may hand it [the Bimini Sands water supply] over completely to the new owners. If they want us to stay on it and help them we will, but if we stay in it I would hope to be a water producer as water is a high duty item. Why send hard-earned dollars to the US for water? We'll look at that in the future."

Bimini Sands condo owners were informed of the resort's impending sale in a letter earlier this year, which said the deal will "put Bimini Sands back on the map" and increase the value of their properties.

"These buyers have a clear vision of what Bimini Sands should be and is currently lacking. They do realise there is a lot of work ahead of them, as well as gaining the trust, confidence and co-operation of all the homeowners and HOA [Homeowners Association] board members," the letter said.

It added that the buyer's planned upgrades included paving all roads; new landscaping and lighting; a new condo rental programme; new security camera system; marina expansion and fix-ups with "first right of refusal" to current homeowners; repairs to the infinity pool; beach replenishment; "addressing the current restaurant deficiencies" and water supply woes; fixing the sewerage treatment plant; and marketing and rebranding Bimini Sands.

"These buyers are very sharp and have seen all the negative postings on social media, which is not a mystery and a big concern for them," the letter said.

"The future of our homes at Bimini Sands will be given new life with the enthusiasm and knowledge of these buyers. I hope we can all agree to put our differences aside and start anew. The first test will be getting everyone on board to approve the painting of all the buildings in each phase, which is so badly needed."

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