NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has raised serious concerns over the status of the Grand Lucayan hotel amid recent revelations that a forensic audit is being undertaken on the restructured proposal for the sale of the property.
Senator Michael Darville, former Minister for Grand Bahama, in a statement yesterday noted that Michael Scott, chairman of the government-owned Lucayan Renewal Holdings, recently indicated that the revised and latest proposal offered by the ITM Group/Royal Caribbean Consortium “is a bad deal” in his opinion.
Scott has indicated there are “reservations” surrounding the restructured proposal for the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort and whether the deal still represents the best interest of the Bahamian people. In a recent interview with Eyewitness News, Scott said an independent forensic audit is being performed to assess the deal. He said ultimately, he will not sign off on an unfavorable deal and is prepared to explore other options for the sale of the resort.
“This bad news comes less than two weeks after Kwasi Thompson, the minister of state for Grand Bahama, confidently predicted the deal would close before the end of the year. The dream of the minister has come crashing down around him and it was left to a surrogate, Chairman Michael Scott, to deliver the bad news,” said Darville.
He added, “For all intents and purposes, the deal the government envisioned and pursued to revive the economy of Grand Bahama has failed. It appears that the board will recommend to the government to open the property early next year as the accounting firm KPMG mulls the merits of the latest proposal.”
According to Darville, these latest developments raise a number of questions, mainly: whether the government secured a reputable hotel operator, casino operator and the requisite airlift to ensure the success of this endeavor as well as the status of the upgrades to Grand Bahama International Airport and the Lucaya market place.
“A projected February 2021 opening as eyed by the Lucayan Renewal Board is exceptionally ambitious if all of the above requisite pieces are to be put in place. As the hopes of Grand Bahamians remain dashed, we wait to hear from the prime minister who spearheaded this failed project. Also, the government had severed the employment of many of the hotel’s staff. These workers will have to be rehired. With well over $100 million expended to date on this hotel property with nothing to show for it, save for a deteriorating asset costing the taxpayers $1 million per month, at the very least the Bahamian people deserve a coherent plan from this government. These knee-jerk reactions that smack of political desperation spell the pouring of another $100 million down the drain and into this black hole,” said Darville.
The government purchased the resort in August 2018. In March, the government signed a heads of agreement with Bahamas Port Investments Limited, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean International and ITM Group, for the sale of the resort and development of a cruise port at Freeport Harbour that was expected to accommodate three ships in phase one, and up to seven ships in subsequent phases. The plan also included a casino, water park, restaurant and retail center.