Grand Hyatt and SLS Hotels Will Not Abandon Troubled Baha Mar
PHOTO: Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. (Photo by Brian Major)
Hospitality brands Grand Hyatt and SLS Hotels will remain part of the stalled, $3.5 billion Baha Mar mega-resort in Nassau and operate hotels within the development when it finally opens in 2017, said Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas Tourism Ministry.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State of the Industry conference in Barbados Tuesday, Jibrilu said the two hotel companies have each issued “a definitive statement” confirming their intent to remain involved in bankrupt mega-resort project under the plan announced last month by Perry Christie, the Bahamas’ prime minister.
While Grand Hyatt and SLS Hotels will remain involved in the bankrupt resort development, Jibrilu had no information on Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, which last summer sought to end its association with the mega-resort project, claiming the continuing impasse was tarnishing the hotelier’s brand.
“I cannot speak to Rosewood,” Jibrilu said. “I don’t know when the announcement is made in a few weeks if anything will come out at that time,” she said, “but I do know a definitive statement came from Grand Hyatt and SLS.”
Construction to finish the project, which is said to be more than 95 percent complete but is now nearly two years behind schedule, is set to begin within the next 10 days to two weeks, Jibrilu said, and a new Baha Mar owner will be announced by the end of September.
“It’s been kept under wraps but the government has been assured and I am aware that there’s an owner who is there in the wings but is waiting for all of the back issues to be settled before they come on and take over,” she said.
Project builder China Construction America (CCA) is anticipating the resort’s main structure, previously known as the Baha Mar Hotel & Casino, will be complete “within the winter season.” Jibrilu added, “whether that means the end of this year or the end of next spring I don’t know. But they feel that particular tower can be opened sooner rather than later.” It remains unclear whether or not the hotel, which was intended as the development’s anchor property, will retain the original name, said Jibrilu.
READ MORE: Baha Mar Hopes Obscured By Looming Questions
Unsecured creditors who are owed $500,000 or less by Baha Mar Ltd., the project’s original developer, will have their claims settled under Christie’s plan. “Those with liabilities beyond that are in negotiations,” Jibrilu said.
Government officials quoted in Bahamas press reports have assailed the lack of detailed information following Christie’s announcement. The Bahamas Supreme Court has sealed documents related to the agreement. Jibrilu said it is customary for such negotiations to remain largely private.
“I was previously director of investment and with most of these [resort] developments I was personally involved in negotiating them. None of have been ever negotiated openly,” she said. “In any commercial transaction, it is standard to have a degree of confidentiality and yet once the agreement is final it is tabled in the House of Parliament and it becomes a public document.”
She continued, “I’ve worked for 10 years on the Baha Mar negotiations and those were never open discussions. So I think it’s rather interesting when I hear these objections.” She said the Bahamas government and the Export-Import Bank of China, the project’s financier, “are continuing to finalize details and the potential buyer is saying there has to be some degree of confidentiality until everything is confirmed.”
The mega-project’s bankruptcy has naturally heightened interest in a resolution, Jibrilu said. “There has been such a spotlight on this project and so much talk about this project,” she said. “There are many stories in the public domain. All of us are waiting now to see the revealed contracts and what comes out.”
Even government officials are eager to see an outcome in the long-running case, Jibrilu said. “We are all waiting with bated breath. To have this resolved means there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
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