NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar indicated yesterday that the government’s special purpose vehicle is making progress in negotiations of the sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama, but could not give a timeline on when that process would be complete.
Last week, the minister said the government had shortlisted three or four bidders.
With the bidders narrowed down to a handful, there was expectation in some quarters that an announcement of a preferred bidder and a deal to sell the property could be around the corner.
Asked whether the government planned to announce the preferred bidder sometime this week, D’Aguilar said, “That may be a little premature”.
“The government obviously is in negotiations; I don’t think that is in any secret,” the minister told the media outside the Churchill Building.
“When these negotiations will be completed and when we will be able to make an announcement is still unknown, but we remain hopeful and encouraged.”
The government had expected to find a buyer before the end of the second quarter of 2019 – by July.
Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) President and CEO Michael Bayley told Eyewitness News Online that the company, and its partners, are approximately at the halfway point of finalizing a proposal to the government for the acquisition of the Grand Lucayan Resort.
RCCL and Mexican port developer, ITM Group, partnered in a bid to acquire the Grand Lucayan in addition to developing a water-based theme park around the resort and the Freeport Harbour.
The government purchased the resort last year for $65 million, with $30 million paid up front.
It borrowed the balance from the former owners, which will be a government-guaranteed mortgage paid over three and a half years with interest.
The resort operates at a $1 million loss per month.
The Lighthouse Pointe is the only property of the three brands which reopened after the resort closed its doors following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
The resort also features Memories and Breaker’s Cay.
According to the government, it would take $39 million to renovate the three hotels.
As it relates to the voluntary separation packages (VSEPs) for approximately 90 managers, the minister said negotiations were ongoing, but appealed to the managerial union at the resort to accepting the deal on the table.
D’Aguilar said he plans to meet with the union this week to continue discussions.
“At some stage one will have to decide what is the best deal and this is for the managers; you may not get everything that you want, but you have gone on for seven months and haven’t got to a result, and you may not get the best, best, best, best deal,” he said.
“The one thing I have found in business is it is better to get a deal than to wait an inordinate amount of time to get the absolute deal that you want.
“At some stage, a decision will have to be made by the workers and by the government on what is the decision because this could go on for an inordinate amount of time.”
He added, “Sometimes it important to make the deal and move one and the benefits that usually accrue to you five, six, seven years from now, you say I can’t believe I waited so long to make the decision that I did because the benefits that are accruing are so substantial.”