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Treasure Cay gets ‘break we’ve waited 35 years for’

TREASURE CAY MARINA

TREASURE CAY MARINA

  • Florida developer in ‘binding’ purchase deal with Meisters
  • Pledges ‘unique opportunity’ to ‘revive’ wider North Abaco
  • Unclear if previous purchaser’s litigation still an obstacle

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

photo

Edward Burr

TREASURE Cay stands poised for “the break we’ve been waiting for for 35 years” after a Florida-based developer last night confirmed he has a “binding” deal to acquire the Abaco development.

Edward Burr, chairman and chief executive of GreenPointe Holdings, a Jacksonville-headquartered developer, told Tribune Business that the agreement with the Meister family creates “a unique opportunity” to not only “revive” what has been described as “the largest second homeowner community in The Bahamas and Caribbean” but the whole of North Abaco.

A near-20 year home-owner at Treasure Cay himself, Mr Burr said he and his team were still finalising development plans but aimed to capitalise on the destination’s “rich history” to “build better than what we have”. While the level of investment and number of jobs that will be created have yet to be determined, the developer anticipates submitting its application for government approvals in “the near term”.

Mr Burr told this newspaper the project is also seeking to “revitalise” wider North Abaco through the entrepreneurial and employment opportunities it will provide, restoring businesses and ensuring families become “self-sufficient” such that it halts the departure of persons seeking work elsewhere.

“It’s not a negotiation. We have a binding purchase and sales agreement with the Meisters to purchase Treasure Cay,” the GreenPointe chief confirmed. “We have been doing the proper due diligence and normal things buyers do, and look forward to a successful conclusion to the process.”

Confirming that much of the work to-date has involved “understanding the infrastructure and condition of the property as it is’”, especially given the near-catastrophic damage much of it sustained during Hurricane Dorian, Mr Burr said he has been visiting Treasure Cay personally for more than 20 years and has owned a home in the community since 2005.

“We’ve been doing as buyers do, understanding the issues with the property first,” he added. “We’re looking forward to the successful conclusion of this process and doing something that will revive and make better not only Treasure Cay but also all of North Abaco.

“Everything is in process. We don’t have any final plans. We will be submitting concept plans to the Government along with our approvals.” Asked when the application for the necessary permits and approvals will be made to the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA), Mr Burr replied: “There are so many moving parts, I hate to put a date on it, but it will certainly be in the near-term. I will say that...

“We haven’t involved government much to-date... It’s really taken a while to understand the asset. I think we have a good handle on that and are putting in plans. I think we’ve done a good job of getting an understanding of that and are working on the plans themselves, ready to move forward.”

As for what attracted him to acquire the project, which is thought to have some 595 undeveloped acres and possibly a further 1,000 in additional land, he added: “My love for Treasure Cay would be the first motivation, and the opportunity to bring the talent, resources and skills of my company, GreenPointe, to revitalise what was Treasure Cay and make it better. We feel we can build better than what we had. “Certainly we have had friends, and have known people residing in North Abaco, and I’ve watched many of them leave North Abaco because they cannot make a living because there are no jobs in North Abaco. I think we can do a great job of restoring business opportunities and helping to make people self-sufficient and to revitalise most of North Abaco.”

Mr Burr and GreenPointe appear to have the expertise, track record and necessary financing to do what is required in reviving Treasure Cay. Their focus is “to create sustainable, high-value communities throughout the south-eastern United States”, according to the company’s website.

It lists some 18 communities on both the west and east coast of Florida that GreenPointe has either developed, or is developing, with many described as “mixed-use, master-planned” developments featuring hundreds of homes spread across sites ranging in size from several hundred to almost 2,000 acres. Waterfront developments, country clubs, and condominium projects are also included in the portfolio.

Robert Meister, who together with his brother, Stefan, currently owns the development via Treasure Cay Ltd, did not respond to Tribune Business messages seeking comment - directly or via intermediaries for their New Providence-based Blue Lagoon business - before press time last night.

Multiple sources spoken to by this newspaper, speaking on condition of anonymity, said most per- sons aware of the deal have been signed to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

One contact said “you’re very hot, you’re not cold” when contacted over suggestions that completion of Treasure Cay’s acquisition was close.

“Our community is really suffering,” they added. “The Meisters haven’t invested any money in the community for years. We really need this to go through.”

Another source familiar with developments surrounding Treasure Cay said they anticipated a formal announcement could be made on the purchase in about a month. “Yes, a deal has been under contract now for about a year,” they confirmed. “Every- thing is looking positive and the Meisters want to sell. The gentleman [Mr Burr] wants to buy. “He’s a very seasoned developer from Jacksonville, Florida, and owns a house he built in Treasure Cay on the marina. He’s been in Treasure Cay since 2005. He’s been developing on the east and west coast of Florida for 25 to 30 years with successful communities featuring amenities such as golf courses. He’s a very good candidate for Treasure Cay. We’re all very excited.”

Confirming Mr Burr’s identity, he added: “It would be the break we’ve been waiting for for 35 years since the late Mr Meister announced he wanted to sell Treasure Cay. Over the years we’ve seen many, many buyers come and never close on it.

“Robert and Stefan [Meister] are busy with their own endeavours at Salt Cay in the Dominican Republic. They have no need or desire to keep Treasure Cay or redevelop it. This gentleman wants to buy it, they want to sell it, and the Government would love to see all these tax dollars come back to the Public Treasury....

“The gentleman we have is the right guy - very savvy, very ethical, very humble. We’re all very optimistic. We’ve heard we’ll have new roads, and there will be a fantastic development of the marina and golf course. He’s seen Treasure Cay in its hey day, and knows what works and doesn’t work,” the source continued.

“The marina business was very important to the resort, and brought a lot of energy with sports fishing boats in and out. There was a lot of excitement and energy going on that’s not there now. The marina was destroyed in Dorian.

“It was a 150-slip marina, and employed a lot of people. We have a lot of single family homes, but it would be nice to have the hotel back, and the marina is definitely what needs to happen first.”

Treasure Cay is said to have around 1,200 home-owners, of whom 120 are Bahamian families.

However, one potential obstacle to any said to Mr Burr and GreenPointe holdings is the litigation that was launched against both the Meisters and the Government by controversial Austrian investor and Lyford Cay resident, Dr Mirko Kovats, after his $22.325m deal to acquire Treasure Cay was blocked by the authorities.

Dr Kovats, who has permanent resident status in The Bahamas, initiated Judicial Review proceedings against the Government on October 27, 2022, after the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) rejected his purchase.

He claimed an astonishing $3bn-plus in damages against the Government.

And the Austrian financier also initiated legal action against the Meisters and their company, Family Adventure Holdings, demanding that they uphold

the February 2021 sales contract or, in the alternative, return his $2.233m deposit equivalent to 10 percent of the purchase price.

“No one is talking about that any more,” one Treasure Cay source said of Dr Kovats and his litigation.

“The Government knew they would have to deal with that situation from the very beginning. He’s not a developer. You can’t have people who don’t want to develop acquire places like Treasure Cay.

“It’s critical you have the right developer in place to develop or redevelop the resort and employ Bahamians and provide the tax dollars needed to run the country.

“You can’t have someone buy and hold on to it indefinitely.

“There was never a second that the Government of The Bahamas considered approving him.”

Comments

Baha10 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Either Burr or his Advisors have failed in their due diligence, as it would seem no sale can progress until the litigation with Kovats is either concluded or settled. Pity, as the only ones who really suffer until resolved are the people of North Abaco… unfortunately this is what happens when Govt. interferes with private commerce. Very sad ….

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lovingbahamas 2 weeks, 3 days ago

It will be interesting to see how this plays out? Is the government going to require a $20 million bond like Kovats? Is Burr willing to risk investing ant money with a billion dollar lawsuit that could take years to solve? In the meantime, the poor people of N Abaco continue their struggle. And the Meister’s stay silent!

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rosiepi 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Davis & Co’s insistence on retaining “a bond” and Dr Kovats’ consistent refusals smacks of payola, as does the increasing amount demanded from $5M now to $20M When Davis was last in power the same scenarios played out with all properties Kovats sought to develop.

I don’t know the man, but I do know that the FNM approved this project and coming on the heels of Dorian this would have been a godsend to the working men and women of the Abacos. When tourists started to return in force after Covid, this project’s restaurants, marina whatever could have been open for business or at least on the cusp.

I know folks were upset over the scope of Kovats first plan but that could have been downsized as he’d done for concerned folks near Albany. Now people are fawning over this saviour! And he’s not even produced one rendering, one inkling of his plans.

Davis & Co have proven their interest begins and ends with ‘what’s in it for me?’ Why would Bahamians trust this current gang of thieves offering another pig in a poke?

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LastManStanding 1 week, 6 days ago

You are mistaken, the government has every right to require a bond. The original developer of Treasure Cay, Leonard Thompson, had to meet certain conditions related to developing the resort within a certain time frame as part of his agreement. This isn't something that they asked for out of the blue, and any serious developer would understand that and put it down to diffuse any concerns that might have existed about parking the land.

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Baha10 2 weeks, 3 days ago

… there appears to be more going on here than being reported, as if Burr is a long time Treasure Cay Home Owner of 20+ years … snd TC has been for sale for 30+ years … why only now have the 2 got together after Kovats stepped in (up) after no one else was willing to purchase and commit to substantial redevelopment, including Hotels, Marina, Restaurants, Shopping Village, etc., etc.?!?

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newcitizen 2 weeks ago

No matter what more you think is going on, no deal is sketchier than a deal with Kovats.

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Baha10 2 weeks ago

Please enlighten us poor folk as to why … might be worth the cost of the popcorn? Of course some resemblance of unbiased supportive proof would be nice, as opposed to vindictive and paid for hatcheting.

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LastManStanding 1 week, 6 days ago

You can go just go read his Wikipedia entry and find out more if you were really serious.

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Baha10 1 week, 5 days ago

As best one can determine 6 months “probation” in connection with a Nightclub over 25 years ago in any event now “expunged” … seriously … if only all our major Investors could produce such a track record🤣

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LastManStanding 1 week, 5 days ago

How did A-TEC end up? In any case, I honestly don't think Kovats is a good fit for Treasure. The first big problem is that most of the community was opposed to him getting it. Homeowners (locals and second homeowners) have a lot of influence in day to day operations, so you have to consider their opinions to a certain degree. The second is that Kovats does not come off as an experienced hotelier to me. You need someone with experience to deal with a project of this size, which is why I always believed Craig Roberts would have been the best developer if he could have pulled it off. Who gives a shit what other business he is involved in, the fact is that he has produced a good tourism product with proven results; that experience is mandatory when developing a project of this size. In any case these people out of Jacksonville come across as serious, no nonsense developers so I think that they will do a good job with it.

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Godson 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Dear Tribune Readers,

If the governing body of the Bahamas rejects the investment application of a foreign, or, for that fact, a local investor, that was an exercise of DISCRETION, of which, its outcome is not guaranteed to be, or, go one way or the other. The performance of the contract will rely on whether or not the governing body approves the application. In this case, it did not. Hence, the performance of the contract is impractical.

However, admittedly, the applicant is within their right to apply for judicial review of the discretionary decision, which, in and of itself, may still not be binding on the parties involved in the contract to the extreme. But to say that governing body hands are tied towards making a decision that the authority deems is in the best interest of the community and the broader Bahamas, is totally absurd.
The governing body comes about as a result of the voting public, which, in this case, seems not to be receptive of the earlier proposed foreign investor. Which seems justified.

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LastManStanding 1 week, 6 days ago

Exactly. The government has every right to refuse approval for the sale, people pretending as if the government did something wrong have no clue what they are talking about. This is a sale involving a bit less than 100 acres IIRC of prime real estate, some of it being top tier beachfront real estate, you can't approve the sale to every Tom Dick and Harry who wants to buy it.

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LastManStanding 1 week, 6 days ago

I only hope that any developer of Treasure Cay is interested in supporting local Abaconian businessmen and professionals and not just bringing in their American buddies to steal all of the good paying work.

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Baha10 1 week, 5 days ago

Well Kovats was proposing “all” Bahamian (including Management) with first preference to Bahamians from North Abaco …. certainly don’t see that at Atlantis, Baha Mar, Albany, etc.

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LastManStanding 1 week, 5 days ago

I never expect a project of this size could be staffed with all Bahamians, the problem is just that Treasure is probably the worst community on Abaco when it comes to immigration violations. Americans, Mexicans, Haitians, you name it have all been working in that community illegally. It is sadly largely encouraged by some of the second homeowners that live there.

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newcitizen 1 week, 5 days ago

Kovats has made promises in the Bahamas for over a decade now. Show me one thing he has actually followed through on, besides lawsuits.

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