The Grenadian by Rex Resorts in Grenada
By Caribbean News Now contributor
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- On Friday, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court will hear an application by MRI Ltd, the management company of The Grenadian by Rex Resorts, for judicial review and an interim injunction preventing the Grenada government from unilaterally revoking the company’s 99-year lease and taking control of the property in question.
“We are deeply disappointed by the government’s stated attempt to unilaterally seize the Grenadian, especially when we are in full-compliance with the terms of our lease and up-to-date on all payments and taxes owed to the government. On behalf of our unionized workforce, loyal customers, international airline partners and owners, we intend to fight this deeply misguided action using all remedies and recourse available,” Richard Bryson, CEO of Rex Resorts, said in a press statement.
Rex Resorts operates eight beach resorts in the Caribbean and East Africa.
According to minister of health and social security, Nickolas Steele, there are ongoing discussions between the government and Rex Resorts and he said that his government desires an “amicable solution that is in the best interests of the people of Grenada”.
However it is not entirely clear why the situation should ever have been less than amicable given that Rex Resorts has met and in fact exceeded its obligations under the lease.
It is understood that the government is attempting to use its powers under the Land Acquisition Act, which authorises the acquisition of land for public purposes.
Specifically, the law provides that “If the governor-general considers that any land should be acquired for a public purpose he or she may cause a declaration to that effect to be made in the manner provided by this section and the declaration shall be conclusive evidence that the land to which it relates is required for a public purpose.”
Local sources report that Sunwing Travel Group, the largest integrated travel company in North America, is interested in acquiring the property in dispute. According to its website, Sunwing “encompasses tour operators, retail travel agencies, Canada’s third largest airline, destination management companies, and the fastest growing hotel chain in the Caribbean”.
It is not known at this time what financial incentives, if any, have been offered by Sunwing or any other interested party to prompt Grenada government ministers to embark on such attempted seizure.
Furthermore, if the property is in fact intended for commercial redevelopment by a private party, there must be some doubt, notwithstanding the governor general’s “conclusive” declaration, as to whether it is genuinely required “for a public purpose”, a term that is not defined in the Act but which is generally held to mean something that purports to benefit the populace as a whole and not narrow private or other interests.
“Our firm was the first international hotel operator to invest in Grenada, an investment that was made 25 years ago at a difficult time in this country’s history, and long before others saw the tremendous beauty and opportunity that we did then, and still do today. The Grenadian currently employs over 100 people and has paid every lease payment due to the government. The hotel is also current on all taxes and has contributed millions to the local economy,” Bryson said.
“Rex Resorts has been a sound corporate citizen and neighbour since opening our doors in 1993. We continue to invest significant resources in modernizing the property and fully intend to fight this action so that we can continue to serve our guests and the community at large for decades to come,” he added.
Former attorney general, James Bristol, pointed out that the Rex Resorts property is held under a lease, with the government as landlord.
“If the government had a difficulty with the standard of the hotel under the terms of the lease the correct place to look to remedy that is within the terms of the lease, exercising your right as a landlord vis à vis the Rex as a tenant,” Bristol said.
Bristol said there is more to the attempted acquisition than meets the eye.
“They may have other reasons for pushing the acquisition as speedily as they did and it’s going to backfire and has backfired,” he said.
Neither the Grenada government nor Sunwing responded to emailed requests for comment.