Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday confirmed that the government has signed a sale agreement with Hutchison Whampoa for the purchase of the Grand Lucayan resort at a final sale price of $65 million.
Minnis said the government made a down payment of $10 million and will pay the remaining $55 million in installments, but he declined to give a time period for those payments or how the government will raise these sums.
Minnis made the announcement following a tour of the property with a near 40-member delegation made up of Cabinet ministers, other senior government officials, MPs and the media.
He toured Memories hotel, Breaker’s Cay and the still open Lighthouse Pointe.
He also visited nearby Port Lucaya and spoke with dozens of seemingly elated vendors who embraced him and expressed satisfaction that the government had moved to acquire the property.
“As you know, we just recently paid the deposit for the purchase of this hotel,” Minnis said.
“We have signed the sales agreement and we hope to complete the purchase of this hotel within the next 30 days. Hopefully soon.
“We return to Parliament on the 16th of September at which time I will give to the nation an exact report as to how we arrived at this conclusion, what exactly we are purchasing and how we intend to move forward.
“It is not our intention to run a hotel. The government cannot run a hotel. But it is our intention to save the jobs of the Grand Bahamians that work at this hotel, [which totals] approximately 400 people. And you can see the impact the closure of this hotel will have on the Lucayan strip.”
Minnis said the government does not want a repeat of the Royal Oasis hotel and the closure of dozens of stores at the International Bazaar.
While Tourism Minister Dionsio D’Aguilar said last week that the government was only interested in purchasing the resort, holding it and finding a buyer, Minnis said the government might open Memories.
“Lighthouse Pointe is now open,” Minnis said.
“That will remain open. We will assess what it would cost to open Memories.”
But the prime minster said the government has no interest in opening Breaker’s Cay.
D’Aguilar claimed that the government did not intend to invest public money in renovating the resort.
D’Aguilar also admitted that the government would incur some loss as a result of the purchase.
Asked how the government intends to pay for the purchase of the resort, Minnis said, “All details will come out during my parliamentary debate.”
When asked if the $65 million price tag was too much, the prime minister responded, “When you are talking about the lives of Bahamians and the economy of an entire nation, I don’t know if you can put a cost on that.
“You are talking about the demise of Grand Bahama.”
Minnis noted that many of the vendors he met were near tears about the resort’s closure.
The Grand Lucayan closed in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew.
Only the 196 room Lighthouse Pointe reopened. The resort also includes Breaker’s Cay and Memories.
Minnis had a message for his parliamentary colleagues.
“We are in a holding mode,” Minnis said, looking at his Cabinet members.
“We are holding the hotel to preserve and protect the economy of Grand Bahama.
“Once a sale is available, this hotel goes. As soon as possible, I would like to sell it.
“I do not want my Cabinet colleagues coming forth with their list saying, ‘These are my 10 constituents I need hired; these are my 20’.
“It won’t happen. So you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth. It won’t happen. Don’t bring the list. If the management accepts the list, that management will be fired.
“So no list Kwasi [Thompson]. No list Michael [Pintard]. All right?
“We are not in that business. But as the Memories opens, then you could bring your list because Memories will need staff. But your list should be fair.”
Last December, Canadian real estate developer Paul Wynn signed a letter of intent to purchase the resort.
However, after months of silence, Wynn revealed earlier this month that he had pulled out of the sale, citing Hutchison’s asking price of $65 million.
Wynn made the revelation after Minnis said that he would not allow the Grand Lucayan resort to close and that the government would buy it if necessary.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said in early August that he does not agree with the government’s decision to purchase the property.