Wilchcombe: Too many questions surrounding Grand Lucayan sale

Former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said while the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort is welcomed, there remains too many unanswered questions surrounding the deal.

The government signed a heads of agreement (HOA) on Monday with Bahamas Port Investments Limited – a joint company of Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and ITM Group – for the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort and the development of a cruise port on Grand Bahama.

“The people of Grand Bahama have been waiting for a long time for some relief to the tourism decline, and have been looking for resolution to the economic woes, more particularly, since the hurricanes,” Wilchcombe said yesterday.

“So, it’s welcomed, but at the same time, the government has not explained what has transpired.

“In fact, we don’t know how much money was spent. We don’t know what the loss is. We don’t know what the government conceded in incentives or the concessions given. We don’t know all the details.”

The final buying price of the Grand Lucayan was $50 million, however, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said that after concessions and insurance proceeds, the deal ends up being even to the $65 million government paid to purchase the resort in 2018.

Wilchcombe said the government still needs to detail how much it spent on the resort in total.

“How much are we giving up and what are you getting out of it,” he asked.

“I mean, what are we giving again? How much are we going to give? We’ve given a lot already to the former owners and the losses that the government has incurred as a result of taking over the property, which I supported by the way [and] now they’re suffering losses.

“[H]ow much did we lose?”

On Wednesday, D’Aguilar said while the government is giving the investors concessions, they are not extraordinary, and it will be worth it in the long run.

“When the document is revealed, [you] will also notice that we had to give some concessions, but in every heads of agreement, you have to give concessions.

“It far outweighs the couple million dollars or so you’re going to be spending in operating losses you would have incurred and the concessions you will be giving. It just far outweighs.”

However, Wilchcombe said the proof will be in the pudding.

He called on the government to table the heads of agreement immediately following the closing period. This follows a similar call by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper. It is unclear whether the government will head these calls, as multiple deals signed by previous governments, including the last PLP administration, were never tabled.

A 90-day closing period is expected for the sale of the resort, and upon closing, the resort’s current staff complement will be terminated by Lucayan Renewal Holdings (LRH), which will give the new owners leave to hire as many employees as they would need during the property’s redevelopment phase.

Late last year, Scott advised that 216 full-time employees were engaged at the Grand Lucayan assigned to the Lighthouse Pointe, spa and laundry and the Grand Lucayan golf course.

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Krystel Brown

Krystel covers breaking news for The Nassau Guardian. Krystel also manages The Guardian’s social media pages. She joined The Nassau Guardian in 2007 as a staff reporter, covering national news. She was promoted to online editor in May 2017. Education: Benedict College, BA in Mass Communications

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