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BREA: Using foreign firm to sell Grand Lucayan ‘a slap in the face’

The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) yesterday congratulated the government on the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort, while blasting the government for using a foreign broker to sell the property.

The sale was coordinated through Toronto-based Colliers International, which has “offices throughout the world but not in The Bahamas”.

A press release issued by BREA President Christine Wallace-Whitfield yesterday expressed the association’s disappointment with Lucayan Renewal Holdings – the special purpose vehicle established by the government to find a buyer for the property – for “ignoring local professionals and using a foreign firm to list the Grand Lucayan hotel and Port Lucaya”.

“There are more than 700 licensed real estate professionals in The Bahamas, many with firms that have the best international affiliations, as well as other local firms that work in conjunction with international-based firms,” said Wallace-Whitfield in the release.

“For a holding company that is a representative of the government of The Bahamas to ignore those 700-plus individuals and world-class, internationally-affiliated firms to list what may be the largest single sales transaction of the year is reprehensible, a real slap in the face.”

The release adds that the rules and the laws of The Bahamas maintain that real estate transactions within the country must involve the services of a licensed Bahamian broker.

“We are, at this very moment, dealing with infractions by foreigners coming into the country and selling Bahamian property,” said Wallace-Whitfield.

She said her phone has been “ringing off the hook” since the government announced on Wednesday that it had entered into the beginning stages of selling the Grand Lucayan.

“Please do not misunderstand us on this,” Wallace-Whitfield continued.

“BREA is thrilled that the Grand Lucayan will have a new owner and that Royal Caribbean International, which has been a good friend of The Bahamas for 50 years, will be part of the new ownership.

The cruise line’s marketing reach is legendary and we are eager to see the project plans which Royal Caribbean and its partner, ITM Group, have. We have no qualms whatsoever with the sale.

“We believe that it will provide the economic engine that will drive Freeport and Grand Bahama farther than it has ever gone before. More than a restoration, it will be a rebirth and we congratulate all parties involved, but we remain adamant that a Bahamian real estate firm should have been involved.”

The signing took place on Wednesday in Grand Bahama with government officials including Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar; Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama; Senate President Katherine Forbes-Smith; and Michael Scott, who has been tasked with dealing with the Grand Lucayan since the government purchased the property. Russell Benford, Royal Caribbean International’s vice president, government relations Americas, signed on behalf of the cruise ship company. Mauricio Humal, chief executive officer of ITM Group, signed on behalf of the Mexico-based hotel and water park operator.

There were 62 expressions of interest and 11 serious proposals submitted for the purchase of the resort. The winning joint venture proposal calls for the redevelopment of the multi-hotel property, and the rejuvenation of the harbor with dining, entertainment, attractions and retail. The initial investment is expected to reach $195 million over the first two years and create approximately 2,000 jobs.

Chester Robards

Senior Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian.
Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism
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