The Grand Lucayan resort.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE sale of the Grand Lucayan resort in Grand Bahama is expected to be made final when a Heads of Agreement is signed on March 2.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis made the announcement last night, while foreshadowing the creation of 2,000 to 3,000 jobs and economic benefits — the result of a sale that has been in the making for nearly a year.
Royal Caribbean International and the ITM Group signed a Letter of Intent for the purchase of the resort and redevelopment of the Freeport Harbour on March 27 last year.
The government purchased the hotel for $65 million in August 2018. Despite criticism over the move, the Minnis administration maintained it only planned to hold on to the hotel to preserve the island’s economy before selling it to a viable developer.
Dr Minnis said last night: “In order to restore the lives of the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama, we must boost economic activity and development, on both islands.
“On March 2, we will sign a Heads of Agreement for the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort and casino. This will help with the long-term recovery and renewal of Grand Bahama. It will result in scores of jobs during reconstruction and development and long-term employment, business and entrepreneurial opportunities for the residents of Grand Bahama.
“This project could mean approximately two to three thousand jobs for Grand Bahama.”
Last week Michael Scott, chairman of government’s special purpose vehicle that owns the resort, said officials had been eyeing a mid-February deadline for the completion of the sale.
At the time, he said an agreement on the final transaction documents was needed as the final step to the process.
He told The Tribune the sale had been somewhat delayed by deadly Hurricane Dorian. The storm also damaged the hotel.
Asked about the scale of the damage, Mr Scott said last week: “We are trying to settle the insurance claim now with the adjusters and underwriters.”
The prime minister’s announcement also comes about two weeks after Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government had budgeted $16.1m for Lucayan Renewal Holdings as he identified a number of non-hurricane related spending initiatives which totalled $119.9m for fiscal year 2019-2020.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said significant clean-up efforts in all settlements in East End and Freeport were underway as the Ministry of Works moved ahead with repairs.
There have also been continuous efforts to restore electricity there.
“There has been significant clean-up, in all settlements in East End and Freeport, Grand Bahama. Removal of debris efforts are ongoing. The Fishing Hole Road Bridge, which remains structurally strong, received significant damage to the approaching roads,” Dr Minnis said.
“The Ministry of Works has received approval to proceed with the repair of this thoroughfare.”
Government also wants to ensure schools in the impacted settlements are properly repaired. Dr Minnis said officials plan to construct one school to serve East Grand Bahama.
All other public schools in the island are expected to have upgrades in the summer, he said.