By Jeffrey Todd
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Billionaire Richard Branson is looking to partner with the largest single-phase resort project in the western hemisphere, Guardian Business can confirm. Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, with more than 400 companies under its banner, met personally with Baha Mar officials in The Bahamas this week to discuss branding and business synergies.
"He was here as a possible partner," top sources informed Guardian Business. "He is looking at how the resort can brand some of its items, especially in terms of various forms of technology, but also in areas like airlift. His brand name has deep recognition."
Indeed, there are countless ways that the $3.5 billion mega project could benefit from such an alliance.
Robert ‘Sandy’ Sands, senior vice president of administration and external relations at Baha Mar, could not confirm nor deny this week's meeting.
The British magnate is worth an estimated $4.2 billion and famous for a number of high-profile companies. He is perhaps best known for the Virgin Records music label, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Virgin Galactic. The latter plans to supply suborbital spaceflights to high-net-worth individuals, essentially trailblazing both space tourism and the commercialization of the final frontier.
This week, international media reported that phase one of the world's first commercial port for sending tourists and payloads into space, known as Spaceport America, is approaching completion in New Mexico.
While Baha Mar’s guests might not blast off into space anytime soon, the fact remains that Virgin Group has strong interests in a number of major industries, including food and beverage, aviation, consumer electronics, films, mobile phones, jewelry and cosmetics.
According to top sources, the exact nature of the proposed partnership has yet to be established. But beyond any material benefit would be the considerable prestige and cache that comes from partnering with such a figure. The charismatic tycoon is also known for his larger-than-life exploits, thirst for life and world record attempts.
In 1991, for example, Branson crossed the Pacific in a balloon, covering 6,700 miles.
Branson stopped by the Baha Mar construction site on Monday on his way to Freeport. The mogul travelled to The Bahamas' second city to take part in a charity aimed at saving the shark population.
Known for his casual demeanor and humility, the airline owner reportedly flew to Freeport using SkyBahamas, one of the county's two national carriers.
Baha Mar, slated for completion in December 2014, continues to attract a great deal of attention from the high-net-worth community. Earlier this month, Guardian Business reported how the mega-resort on Cable Beach has sold well over $100 million worth of elite residences to international investors in just three months. Asian, European and Middle Eastern investors have shown the greatest interest in these residences.
Baha Mar has sprinkled 307 homes within the Hyatt, Mondrian, Rosewood and casino hotels. When the resort opens it will unleash more than 2,000 new hotel rooms into the Bahamian market.
The project will have more than 2,000 feet of beachfront, an eco-water park, a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course and a 200,000-square-foot convention center. Baha Mar is being constructed by China Construction America and financed through the Export-Import Bank of China.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian