Grand Lucayan sale up in the air as general election looms

The sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort in Freeport is now up in the air, Chairman of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Michael Scott said yesterday.

The government signed a heads of agreement with Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and ITM Group for the sale and redevelopment of the property and nearby cruise port, and had originally pegged early 2021 for the redevelopment to begin, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed and changed the terms of the agreement.

When asked if the sale is up in the air with a general election a week away, Scott said, “Absolutely. But whoever wins, I want to get this monkey off my back.”

The government has owned the Grand Lucayan since August 2018, when it purchased the ill-fated hotel from Cheung Kong Property Holdings Limited for $65 million.

Since then, the government has sought to offload the property, which has cost it approximately $1 million a month to maintain and operate.

“If we lost, then, obviously, I wouldn’t be chairman anymore, right?,” he told Guardian Business.

“And I wouldn’t be on the board anymore. There’d have to be a new board appointed by the incoming government and there would have to be a transition. Knowing me and my reserve of knowledge and experience on this matter, they’d want to be briefed on it. That’s in the unlikely event (we lose). I want to stress that,” he told Guardian Business.

The property reopened earlier this year after more than a year closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel restrictions and border closures.

But despite being open, Scott said the 740-room resort has been plagued with challenges.

“I spent a great deal of every day of my life trying to sort out repair issues and management issues. We’ve had one problem after the other with equipment breaking down – for example, the A/C system, putting in an RO (reverse osmosis) system to make sure that we don’t have other corroding infrastructure in the resort and that is purely the fault of the Grand Bahama Port Authority and their subsidiaries like Grand Bahama Utility Company,” he said.

“We are open now, but there have been periods, you can’t put people in a hotel room if the AC isn’t working. So, we’ve had occasions where we had urgent problems; a unit breaks down and stuff like that and we had to move people over and forage rooms for them at our expense to Pelican Bay, which is across the street thankfully…If you’re paying $40,000-plus for water, you cannot be pumping brackish water – sometimes very close to saltwater through these pipes because you’re destroying the systems.”

Scott said he intends to hold the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) accountable.

“They’ve cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and I’m going to collect from them for that. I’ve already started the process. If I remain in office, I will get compensation for that. If I don’t, I’ll have to hand that over to my successor and sort of brief him of what will be required,” he added.

GBPA Chairman Ian Rolle said earlier this year that the port cannot be held accountable as the water salinity issues are due to an act of God – Hurricane Dorian.

Scott said his views on the sale remain the same.

“I took, I supposed unhappily for some of the ministers on the negotiating team, a very blunt posture meaning that I am not in favor of the BPI (Bahamas Port Investment Ltd) deal, which is RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) and ITM. I think what we should do is (shelve) the original plan, which is to have them operate the hotel as well as a commercial center at the revamped cruise port. But we should sort of split up that deal and let them deal with the cruise port and I’m sure we would (have) actually found people who are in the hotel business and who have a flag that can take over the Grand Lucayan and recreate it,” he said.

“I promised not to say too much publicly on that because, and a lot of people got upset, but I have a view on that and I’ve said that we’d be better off selling the hotel to people who are qualified in that industry and let RCCL lead the revamped cruise harbor deal.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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