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Backing For Financier’S Treasure Cay Purchase

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

A controversial Austrian financier’s bid to acquire the Treasure Cay Resort was yesterday backed by one stakeholder as the only way to prevent the community suffering further economic blight.

Doug Benson, the Bahama Beach Club Owners Association’s president, told Tribune Business he supported Dr Mirko Kovats’ effort to purchase the property since it promises an end to 20 years of stagnation.

“I’m in favour of the development and, if Dr Kovats doesn’t close, I’d say we’re looking at another multiple years’ of what we’ve experienced in the last two decades. I think he’s our best shot right now,” he argued.

Referring to the lack of redevelopment since Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco in September 2019, Mr Benson said he has seen Dr Kovats’ plans and believes he has the resources - financial and otherwise - to return Treasure Cay back to some level of operational status.

Rejecting other potential investors, he charged: “They only popped up when Dr Kovats was announced as a potential purchaser of the Treasure Cay Resort, but the resort had been in trouble for the past 20 years, well before Hurricane Dorian and nobody stepped up then.”

Referring to Treasure Cay’s current owners, Mr Benson added: “I know the Meisters. They’re out, and anyone else other than Dr Kovats, they’re going to come along and we’re going to start this process all over again.

“We’ve been through this. We’ve seen people come in and make offers only to have the Meisters torpedo it, but I think the kids are now running the show and they want out, and so I’m hoping that Dr Kovats closes and he has the money to invest that causes all boats to rise.”

Tribune Business understands that a sales agreement between Dr Kovats and the Meisters has been signed, and now both parties need to close a deal that has been in negotiation since at least 2020 as well as obtain all necessary government approvals. However, other Treasure Cay residents are opposed to any sale to Dr Kovats.

A resident of Lyford Cay, the Austrian financier made an unsuccessful attempt to buy the former South Ocean property in southwestern New Providence prior to its acquisition by Albany’s developers. And he is also running into opposition from Love Beach residents over plans to develop a condominium complex there.

Amid earlier assertions that he has a tendency to sit on property in The Bahamas and do nothing to develop it, 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.

Mr Benson, meanwhile, said: “I think the real problem with Treasure Cay is it is unlike the other cays like Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Elbow Cay, in that over the last several years we didn’t have the local organisation that the other cays had.

“We didn’t have the local government to get things done. We had the Meisters and they were already on their way out. The resort has been for sale ever since I bought in 2011. And I know it had been for sale for a long time before that.

“Now, finally, Dr Kovats comes in with an offer and it is accepted by the Meisters. For some of us that have business interests there we know we need help. There is nothing going on because the Meisters have not been putting anything back into the Treasure Cay resort. We’ve got the one dock, with the marina rental, and Florence’s Café. They are the only business interests really going on.”

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