Naturalised Vincentian businessman Kelly Glass, along with Barry Ferdinand, who is originally of Rose Hall, and Jonathan Mills, a Scot, are the new investors in Buccament Bay Resort, which has been closed since December 2016.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon during a media conference.
He told the hastily-organised media briefing that the investors signed earlier that day a heads of terms of agreement (memorandum of understanding) with Brian Glasgow, the trustee in bankruptcy for Harlequin, owners of the resort.
“We had a long session this morning — about two and a half hours — with all the persons involved in the Buccament matter — the investors,” Gonsalves said.
He said that Mills and Glass are involved in two tourism projects in Bequia.
Those properties are Plantation House, a hotel, and a tourism development at Adams Bay.
“And they are branding them under a particular rubric,” Gonsalves said, noting that Glass also owns Blue Lagoon, a hotel in Ratho Mill on St. Vincent’s south western coast.
“So he and his group will be among the leading hoteliers if not the leading hotelier in the country,” Gonsalves said and reiterated his invitation for other Vincentians to invest in the tourism sector.
The prime minister said that while Glass is among the prospective owners of Buccament Bay Resort, “we have to dot some I’s and cross some t’s.”
“There are some other issues which are involved because there are about 2 acres of beachfront land for the government. We are seeking to come to terms as to how we work those out — those two acres.
“There are some other things which we undertake to do in respect with another parcel of land, because it was a very complicated property with different sets of owners and complicated practically and legally. That’s why it has taken so long and the negotiations have been so difficult between the new investors and the trustees in bankruptcy.”
Part of the resort is built on land belonging to the government, while another section is located on land belonging to two private citizens, according to evidence led during a civil action that the resort owners had brought against a previous service provider.
Gonsalves said another meeting is scheduled for Friday.
“We do some tidying up on some things. Hopefully, we can come to some financial conclusions about a couple matters between the investors and the state on Friday morning at 10 o’clock. So, I’m gonna ask the press to be on standby for about 11, 11:15 or thereabout so that you can meet these new investors, assuming — and I have confidence that we will solve the problems, the remaining difficulties.
“But you never know. It’s never over until it’s over, or, as they say in baseball, until the fat lady sings — whatever, I don’t know the origin of that particular expression.”
The prime minister said he was happy that two of the investors are Vincentians, even as he noted that Glass was born in New Zealand.
Gonsalves said Mills is also involved in tourism projects in Scotland.
He said that Ferdinand was born in Rose Hall but spent many years in the United Kingdom, where he was a property developer.
“So it is good to see two Vincentians inside of this mix. And we are proceeding apace with the activity at Mt Wynne for the state,” he said, referring to the 250-room hotel that he said his government will build there.
Gonsalves further gave insights into the second hotel that Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, said earlier this month the government plans to build.
“It will be an airport hotel. The idea is to have it built on five, seven acres of land at Diamond, just before you turn the corner to go up to Kings Hill. The idea is to have a Holiday Express, but have a little extra feature to it, swimming pools and so on, so that Vincentians can go on weekends, holidays and so on,” the prime minister said.
Tuesday’s announcement comes exactly two weeks after the prime minister told the media that the resort would not reopen this year, as the government had hoped.
“… the legal work is moving slower than he would have wished,” he told an Oct. 2 press conference.
The resort, which has the largest number of rooms of any tourism facility in St. Vincent, was forced to close in December 2016, when the state-owned power company cut its electricity supply over non-payment of bills.
This followed several weeks of protest by workers over the non-payment of wages.
Since then, the government has brought fraud and tax evasion charges against naturalised Vincentian, Britain-born Dave Ames, the main principal behind the resort, who fled the country in June 2017 as prosecutors moved in on him.