By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Super Value’s owner says his Bimini Sands property will be transformed into “a little gem” matching nearby Cat Cay through the deal that will secure his resort industry exit.
Rupert Roberts, confirming that a sale has been agreed subject to government approval, told Tribune Business that it was time for “somebody else to complete the vision I had” for a property that currently features 216 condo units and around 60 marina slips.
While declining to identify the buyer, or speak on its behalf about its plans, Mr Roberts said he wanted to focus on “selling meat and potatoes” via his Super Value supermarket chain and other food retail ventures.
Pointing out that he is “not getting any younger”, he pledged that Bimini Sands’ existing 166 homeowners will be “thrilled” by the impending sale and buyer’s plans to upgrade the South Bimini-based resort.
“We’ve signed an agreement for sale subject to government approval,” Mr Roberts told this newspaper, “and I think it’s going to be something outstanding for Bimini, for employment and the tourist industry in Bimini.
“It’s something I’ve worked for 20-25 years, and built 216 condo units and dug the marina.... I would like to see somebody else complete the vision I had for it, and turn it into another gem in the Caribbean. It’s literally 40 nautical miles from Miami. It’s the beginning of yachting to Paradise; the gateway to The Bahamas. Bimini is the first island they hit.
“With government’s co-operation it’s going to be a little gem there on Bimini, and Bimini Sands will become very famous like Cat Cay.” That is the high-end, luxury private island community nearby that is home to multiple wealthy residents.
Asked why he had decided to exit now, the Super Value chief said the passing of his Bimini Sands business partner, the late Frank Cooney, three to four years ago was among the factors.
“He was a working partner, not a financing partners, and I sell potatoes and onions,” Mr Roberts added. “I’m busy selling potatoes and onions, and have more than I can do. We’ve grown to 13 supermarkets in Nassau, and five in Abaco, and I have other investments in businesses, including the [Commonwealth] bank.
“These people are very creative, very well financed,” he said of the potential purchaser, “and I think it’s the right fit. I’m not getting any younger. Let a young group take that. I think the home owners are going to be thrilled. The marina I think could sell itself. There are 60-some slips that could be increased to 160. I just don’t have the time to develop it. I don’t visit Bimini enough for pleasure.”
Asked how quickly he expected the government approvals to materialise, Mr Roberts added: “Government say they’re approving these things on a timely basis. They want the employment and the investment, so I think that should happen fairly quickly. Hopefully that is speeded up.”
He explained that Bimini Sands’ potential new owner is acquiring the 50 condo units yet to be sold, which he described as “brand new” with just under half - some 24 - already furnished.
The Super Value chief revealed that he last year hired Peter Maury, who runs Bay Street Marina and the Atlantis marina, as a consultant to help oversee Bimini Sands’ operations. Mr Maury, who also has a condo at the South Bimini property, told Tribune Business there was “great potential” for further expansion under a new owner.
“It’s been almost a year; eight to nine months,” he said of his time in Bimini. “We were basically trying to figure out the operations and get the whole thing running the way it should. We showed them [the buyer] the potential for improved sales.
“They have 50 units and I imagine they’re going to renovate them, and do property improvements to the roads, landscaping and that stuff. They have to invest money in it. There’s clear room in the marina for more slips.
“It would depend on what they’re going to do. If they want to sell a slip with a unit they will add 50. If they want to accommodate bigger vessels they will put in larger slips to generate more revenues,” Mr Maury continued.
“From the marina standpoint, you put in bigger slips and get more revenue with bigger boats and yachts. It depends on how they package the deal up, but they could easily double the size of the marina with more slips and selling them off with units.
“They’ll have to figure out their market. It’s a pretty capable group, well funded. It’s a young group and they have vision. I’ve walked the property with them and they want to make it more than it is, which will be good for the equity value of the homeowners already there.”
Mr Maury said Mr Cooney’s passing had resulted in “turmoil” at Bimini Sands, as “the homeowners couldn’t decide who would run it”. Suggesting there had been “too many chiefs” among the homeowners, he added: “There was always a new condo committee coming in and trying to run things.
“They couldn’t decide who would be the boss in the Homeowners Association, unfortunately, and Mr Roberts didn’t have the time to deal with it. It’s more convenient to do it this way and let someone else take it on.”
Mr Roberts added that the buyer would also be acquiring a water plant that could serve the whole of South Bimini, while there was also scope for it to introduce “a solar farm” as a source of renewable energy.
Bimini Sands’ impending sale was revealed in a letter to the resort’s condo owners by one of their own, Charles Conigliaro, who helped find the buyer. The letter, which has been obtained by Tribune Business, says the deal will “put Bimini Sands back on the map” and increase the value of their properties.
“For the past seven months I have been working with Mr Roberts, Peter Maury and Paige Waugh in bringing buyers to Bimini Sands,” Mr Conigliaro wrote. “I must say the process couldn’t have gone any better. Everyone representing Bimini Sands, including Mr Roberts, couldn’t have been any more accommodating during the many face-to-face meetings we attended in Nassau.
“Today I’m pleased to announce that Bimini Sands now has new equitable owners. 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.”
Mr Conigliaro said 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,” he added. “I myself have been very transparent and make no excuses, but to assure them that all of this would go away once this announcement is posted.
“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.”
Mr Conigliaro added that the buyers had promised improvements would be evident to homeowners “prior to the start of the 2019 season”. Arguing that this represented “a chance for a whole new beginning for all of us”, he urged homeowners to get behind the purchasers.
“This is an opportunity for the buyers and the [homeowners] to start off fresh and on the right foot with everyone’s best interest at heart. The painting of the individual buildings will be the only expense to the [homeowners],” Mr Conigliaro wrote.
“This has been a challenging task for me and well worth the time spent putting this deal together. This new company, without a doubt, will put Bimini Sands back on the map as well as increase our property values, and have asked me to be the direct communicator as well as their liaison between the them, homeowners and Association board members going forward.”
Tribune Business reached out to the prospective Bimini Sands purchaser yesterday via Mr Conigliaro but did not receive a response before press time last night.