By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Opposition’s leader last night voiced concern that “there are no further hiccups” with the proposed Grand Lucayan sale with the extension to the buyer’s 60-day due diligence period set to expire this week.
Michael Pintard told Tribune Business that the Free National Movement (FNM) was “concerned” about the Electra America Hospitality Group deal’s status in the absence of any updates from the Davis administration, adding that his party was “once again hopeful that the project will succeed”.
When the latest Grand Lucayan deal was unveiled in early May, Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister, said Electra America had agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government and was to pay a $5m deposit once a sales agreement is signed. That deposit becomes non-refundable after a 60-day due diligence period closes, with the $95m balance to be paid within 120 days of the MoU signing.
The 60-day due diligence period was thus due to come to an end in early July, and the subsequent 15-day extension would have taken that time through until this week. Mr Pintard voiced hope that Electra America has the required “deep pockets, commitment and has the capacity” to see the acquisition through to completion, and that “the Government is doing everything possible to facilitate them”.
“We hope there are no further hiccups in that regard,” the Opposition’s leader told this newspaper as he resumed his verbal battle with the deputy prime minister that was sparked by comments Mr Pintard made over Grand Bahama International Airport.
“We continue to caution the deputy prime minister to under-sell in his public pronouncements and over-deliver in execution so as not to unduly raise expectations,” he added of Mr Cooper. Referring to the initial Grand Lucayan MoU announcement with Electra America, Mr Pintard asserted: “He talked about this initiative in a manner that made many members of the public fell as of this was sold.
“The way in which it was represented, the way in which he couched it in language, and the presentation sent the wrong message to the public. We urge him to be cautious in his public pronouncements and let us know what the plan is.”
Mr Cooper, on Friday, had hit back at Mr Pintard over current conditions at Grand Bahama International Airport. Asserting that temporary upgrades, including recently-arrived modular units for displaced workers, generators and new elevators for the control tower had either all arrived or were on the way, the deputy prime minister slammed the Minnis administration’s “abysmal” treatment of Grand Bahama.
Noting that Mr Pintard was a member of the former Cabinet, Mr Cooper asserted it was “astounding” the Opposition leader was now giving advice on upgrading the airport when “neither shame nor humility compels him” to acknowledge how the former government neglected the facility for two years post-Hurricane Dorian apart from negotiating its purchase from Hutchison Whampoa and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA).
Mr Pintard yesterday hit back, saying Mr Cooper was “extremely sensitive on the lack of significant progress on the reconstruction and redevelopment of Grand Bahama International Airport. What we have come to learn about deputy prime minister Cooper is that he has little to no tolerance for constructive criticism”.
He added that the Opposition’s efforts to be constructive “will not stop us from calling out hype and showmanship when we see it or hear it. Sadly, so far, there is very little evidence of substance and, as such, there has been very little substantive progress at the Grand Bahama International Airport”.
Mr Pintard argued that the upgrades outlined by Mr Cooper were “cosmetic and routine”, and told Tribune Business that the airport’s transformation into an international gateway “goes hand in hand” with the Grand Lucayan sale.
Mr Cooper, during his Budget presentation said three “credible” investors had expressed interest in redeveloping Grand Bahama International Airport via a public-private partnership (PPP) although he did not name them.
“I am pleased to advise that as a result of the RFP (Request for Proposal) process, we have three credible suitors for the redevelopment of a world-class Grand Bahama International Airport. They’re credible with a track record and their own money so we expect construction to be completed by January 2025,” he added.
However, this PPP process - albeit one that has been adjusted - was largely inherited from the former Minnis administration. Meanwhile, Florida-headquartered Electra America Hospitality Group is effectively a joint venture between Electra America, a real estate developer, operator and financier, and AKA, which is billed as a luxury hotel residences specialist.
The group’s website says their partnership, boasting $6.85bn in assets under management, aims “to capitalise on disruption in the hotel industry” via a focus on acquiring, renovating and managing “well located hotel assets with upside potential in major US markets”. It currently includes two Florida properties, Hotel AKA Brickell in Miami, and Hotel AKA West Palm, in West Palm Beach, among its active portfolio, although the Grand Lucayan represents its first expansion outside the US and UK.
Three resort properties for the Grand Lucayan have been detailed. A four to five-star branded luxury lifestyle hotel, featuring 198 rooms and 24 villas and targeted at corporate and leisure business; a four-star convention hotel with 535 rooms, featuring an amphitheatre and convention centre; and a 257-room condo-hotel style family resort with suites that are double the size of the Grand Lucayan’s existing rooms.