‘WE GOT SCREWED’: Former tourism minister laments failed Grand Lucayan MOU

‘WE GOT SCREWED’: Former tourism minister laments failed Grand Lucayan MOU
The Grand Lucayan Resort on Grand Bahama.

D’Aguilar suggests country’s time was wasted

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar today blamed the failed Grand Lucayan deal on the inability of the Freeport Harbour Company to “strike a deal” with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL) and ITM Group.

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper.

His comments come as Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper revealed that the Davis administration has canceled its agreement with RCL/ITM for the sale of the beleaguered resort.

In a statement, Cooper said the boards of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited and Lucayan Beach Casino Holdings Limited met on Monday to terminate by mutual consent the 2020 purchase agreement between themselves and Bahamas Ports Investments Limited (BPI), the joint-venture partnership between RCL and ITM.

Cooper said the terminated agreement has cost taxpayers well in excess of $150 million and added that talks with other potential investors will start shortly.

D’Aguilar, in an interview with Eyewitness News, said: “We (Minnis administration) got screwed by the inability of Royal Caribbean/ITM and Freeport Harbour Company to strike a deal.

“On the face of it, it looked fine, but two years and they still had no deal.

“So, really, they could not conclude the deal with us because of the condition of concluding a deal with Freeport Harbour Company, and they could never conclude their deal.

Our deal wasn’t going to go through anyway.

– Former Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar

“So, our deal wasn’t going to go through anyway because RCL never concluded a deal with the harbour company and to this day probably hasn’t.”

While in office, D’Aguilar described the resort’s sale as “extremely frustrating”.

Today, he told Eyewitness News that he wished they handled the negotiations differently.

“If I were to look back with hindsight and say where we went wrong, we should not have allowed them to tie up into two years of negotiations to buy this hotel when that deal was never going to happen until they had a deal with the port, and they could never strike a deal with the port,” he said.

Former Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar. (BIS/KEMUEL STUBBS)

“What we should have done was made sure there wasn’t that condition and then they wouldn’t have bought the hotel in the first place and wouldn’t have tied us up two years in negotiations.”

Moreover, D’Aguilar suggested that the country’s time was wasted.

“Even though we negotiated the hotel’s sale with Royal Caribbean, and of course, COVID-19 came along and significantly impacted their core business, and so their very robust cash position quickly deteriorated and they kept coming back to the table for a better deal,” he said.

“In hindsight, all of those negotiations were irrelevant because they could never strike a deal with the port.

“They kept negotiating with us that a port deal was close, but a port deal was never close.”

D’Aguilar declined to comment on Cooper’s claim that the way the deal was structured “was not in the best interests of the Bahamian people”.

The deal was not a win-win for the Bahamian people.

– Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper

In the statement, Cooper said: “The government was frankly not satisfied with what was proposed or that the project would be advanced in the short or medium-term.

“We were not willing to continue on without a clear timeline for completion and were of the view that many of the terms were not in the best interest of the Bahamian people.

“For example, the Minnis administration, via Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited (LRHL), had agreed to lend money to Bahamas Port Investments Limited (BPI) to renovate and develop the property.

“In summary, the deal was not a win-win for the Bahamian people.”

About Matthew Moxey

Matthew Moxey is a broadcast reporter with Eyewitness News and also serves as the station’s morning radio news anchor for 103.5 The Beat. He joined Eyewitness News as an intern, which led to him becoming a full-time broadcast reporter with the news station. Some of his notable work includes his correspondence with international networks such as CNN, FOX and NBC; his reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic; and his live coverage of monster storm Hurricane Dorian.

1 comments

We have visited the Lucayan Beach area for the past 7 years and were so disappointed to see the Grand Lucayan and Casino closed!
We were actually visiting the area when the deal was signed with much fanfare for the sale to Royal Caribbean group! The residents and ourselves were so excited to see things moving forward for the people of Grand Bahama.
After seeing all the promises from the former government it must be so discouraging for the residents to hear this latest news but maybe there will be a silver lining for the people of Freeport,,we can only hope?

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