The Baha Mar development on Cable Beach
By K. Quincy Parker
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- What slim hope exists that the multibillion-dollar Baha Mar megaresort project would open in time for the peak tourism season for The Bahamas – November through April – is being bolstered by the hope of a positive outcome to ongoing negotiations, conducted in closed-door meetings like the one Guardian Business understands was held on Thursday.
Embattled developer Sarkis Izmirlian, financier Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM Bank), contractor China Construction America (CCA), the government of The Bahamas and the liquidators would all have been represented at the meeting, it is understood. Guardian Business understands that Izmirlian may have been personally present, which has not always been the case.
The negotiations have apparently reached what at least one Cabinet minister referred to as “a delicate stage”, and the current round of meetings is set to continue today.
Back before Bahamas Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder granted the application to wind up Baha Mar and appointed joint provisional liquidators and, before US Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey dismissed the Chapter 11 cases of the Bahamas-based Baha Mar companies, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts wanted out of Baha Mar. And even in the new era of “détente”, it is not yet clear that the brand wants back in.
Last month Rosewood asked the Delaware bankruptcy court to void its Baha Mar licensing agreement, citing a number of factors including the fact that the developer of the resort filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. Another major ground for separation was Rosewood’s allegation that the developer falsely represented that it was the legal owner of the hotel real estate.
Since Winder appointed Edmund Rahming of KRyS Global along with Nick Cropper and Alastair Beveridge of AlixPartners Services UK LLP as joint provisional liquidators on September 4, they have focused on negotiations between the parties involved in the $3.5 billion reimagining of what was once called the Cable Beach strip. Now, after slightly differing reports on a meeting between Izmirlian and Prime Minister Perry Christie, those negotiations have reached a crucial point.
That much, at least, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe has confirmed.
While for a time, the administration commented freely about the status of the negotiations, it appears “the whip is on” so to speak. Questioned about whether Rosewood still wants out, and whether Hyatt – the other brand that was rumoured to have expressed dissatisfaction – was next, Wilchcombe was uncharacteristically reticent.
“We are at a delicate stage in the dialogue regarding the future of Baha Mar. It is therefore prudent to reserve public discussion on all matters related,” the minister said.
The most recent move in the saga has been the return of CCA to the Baha Mar campus to conduct what CCA Senior Vice President Daniel Liu termed “an assessment” of the property, and of what damage had been suffered while the project had been shuttered.
The result of the assessment is expected to be a timeframe for completion – keeping in mind that all sides say the resort is 97-98 percent complete – and a cost to get the project over the finish line.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian