By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Treasure Cay property owners yesterday said they “hated” the latest development proposal submitted by the project’s potential purchaser, which includes plans for a 350-room hotel and 216-slip marina.
Eric Bethel, a Treasure Cay amenities Board member and its former head of security, told Tribune Business that property owners were “not too happy” with an architect’s renderings submitted on behalf of Austrian investor, Dr Mirko Kovats, who has been seeking to acquire the development for several years.
“The pictures of the new proposal that is being shared, someone said that it looks like it would cost around $50m easily, but nothing is confirmed right now so it could be anything,” he added. “Treasure Cay property owners don’t want these large resorts on their island. They want smaller, boutique hotels with a small marina. Something that is low-key and environmentally friendly.”
Tribune Business has seen a copy of the 13-page booklet, dated August 15, 2022, and entitled Towne Centre Master Plan for Treasure Cay. The renderings have been drafted by Charles J Nafie Architecture and Design, the same Naples, Florida, firm working on Dr Kovats’ Love Beach project.
Besides the 350-room hotel, and a beach club and restaurant, the proposal also features a 150-unit condo hotel; 60 luxury condo units; a parking facility; offices; retail; and other amenities associated with a mixed-use resort development.
Bill McLean, of Beach Villa Owners Association, in an August 22 e-mail to members, said: “I’ve attached a copy of a plan that has been submitted by Mr Kovats, the still-pending buyer of Treasure Cay Ltd, to the Prime Minister’s office, apparently to be formally presented this week.
“The centrepiece of the proposal is a 350-room hotel (eight floors?) on the beach at the location of the former Coco Beach Bar. To say that this would forever change the appearance and character of the beach, and of Treasure Cay, is an understatement. It is doubtful that Treasure Cay property owners will ever be given the opportunity for input, which government regulations appear to require.”
Dr Kovats’ office did not respond to a request for comment before press time. It was just six weeks ago that Tribune Business reported he was planning to initiate legal action after the Government refused to approve his purchase, but the latest developments indicate another revised application has been made to the authorities.
Bruce Neandros, another Treasure Cay property owner, added: “Everybody hates this proposal by Kovats. We don’t want it at all. We hope the Prime Minister can make the right decision on this because this has gone on too long now. One day Kovats is out, and now he is promoting a new project design for the resort. We hope the Government can make a definitive statement on this because our property owner association is prepared to act on this.”
Mr Neandros said most property owners will return to Treasure Cay by October, and they will “sit down and work out where do we take Meister and Dr Kovats from there”. He added: “We are planning lawsuits to get to the bottom of why the Treasure Cay Resort is allowed to just sit there and not doing anything. We have already said we don’t want Dr Kovats and here he is, back again, after being rejected.
“There is another credible proposal on the table for the Treasure Cay Resort being co-ordinated by a resident that everybody knows and everyone has confidence in. They have the money, and I have seen the money they want to spend on the resort.”
Craig Roberts, a hotelier on Abaco, has made a counter-offer to buy the Treasure Cay resort. Mr Neandros added: “If we can’t get a result then we are going to make it very public about what’s going on. We think the Government can be a real asset to us in Abaco, because we want it to come back to its former glory.”
A resident of Lyford Cay, Dr Kovats has also initiated litigation that, for the moment, has halted Albany’s acquisition of the adjacent South Ocean property in southwestern New Providence. He is understood to be arguing that he has a binding purchase agreement with South Ocean’s Canadian pension fund owners that was signed before the latter agreed the Albany deal, and is still valid.
The financier has also attracted controversy in his native Austria throughout his business and investing career, despite building his publicly-listed industrial group, A-Tec Industries, into a conglomerate that once featured over 70 companies and more than 10,000 employees, with turnover pegged at more than one billion euros.
Numerous companies he was involved with early in his business career became insolvent, and Dr Kovats has faced numerous civil lawsuits during his business career, being criminally indicted twice. He was sentenced to six months’ probation in 2000 by the Vienna High Court over the bankruptcy of a nightclub he had invested in. Dr Kovats was also charged over another nightclub insolvency in 2007, although he was never convicted.
Tribune Business’s own research also found that Dr Kovats and a fellow executive were fined by Austrian regulators in 2012 for providing misleading information to the capital markets, thus harming investors. Following a two-year period of turbulence that began in 2011, A-Tec moved to restart business activities in 2013, after undergoing a reorganisation.