By C. ben-David
With the Buccament Resort being reopened under new management … we now have a wonderful platform for increasing our capacity to host visitors to our country (Searchlight newspaper editorial, January 4, 2019).
“UNLESS SOMETHING extraordinary happens between now and the end of April, we can count the reopening of the Buccament Bay Resort (BBR) for the current season as another unfulfilled [Unity Labour Party] political promise” (The Vincentian newspaper editorial, February 8, 2019).
Two contradictory media views. Which one is correct?
An unknown, inexperienced, and moneyless British developer with a shady past, David Ames, had only partially completed Buccament Bay Resort when it saw a “soft opening” on May 27, 2010. According to his parent company’s press release:
“The 368-room resort will be the first from the new hotel brand, Harlequin Hotels & Resorts and is positioned to redefine tourism on the island, creating massive sustainability and growth into the economy and its community.”
Although the planned 1,200 room resort was never subjected to a thorough feasibility study, a feature shared with Argyle airport, it appeared to be successful for its first few years, at least judging from its high occupancy numbers and Harlequin’s huge base of 3,000 investor-owners (now creditors in the assets of the bankrupt enterprise). Thereafter, it descended into financial and legal chaos resulting in its closure less than seven years later on Dec. 14, 2016.
Surely, BBR has redefined tourism on the island as the largest bankruptcy the local industry has ever seen.
Contrary to the uninformed opinion of Searchlight newspaper, the BBR has certainly not “reopened under new management,” at least as of this writing.
This is because the Resort’s financial and legal chaos have proven nearly insurmountable. According to the latest statement (Nov. 6, 2018) from Brian Glasgow, KPMG Bankruptcy Trustee for the more than 2,500 BBR creditors:
“At this stage there are no formal resolutions required to be passed by the general body of creditors and therefore the Bankruptcy Trustee will not be holding a meeting [to vote on any resolutions] …. After considering the alternative options available the Trustee commenced negotiations with the most likely purchasers. This led to … the Inspectors … sanction[ing] the Trustee to enter [a non-legally binding] heads of terms [agreement] with the chosen party.
The process has been delayed as there are a number of issues surrounding the legal title to the various plots of land that comprise the resort. In order to sell the resort the Trustee and his legal counsel had to devise various strategies to resolve the issues.
The Trustee and the purchaser [local hotelier Kelly Glass et al.] have had detailed discussions with the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as they are a major stakeholder in the opening of the resort as well as legal owner to critical plots of resort land. The Trustee entered into a heads of terms agreement with the prospective purchaser on, October 16, 2018…. [and] will now continue to work with the purchaser and his legal advisers and hopes to be in a position to complete a sale with the purchaser before December 31, 2018.”
Dec. 31 has past, David Ames is currently facing criminal prosecution in England for fraud regarding his Harlequin shenanigans that, along with multi-million dollar legal disputes in the United Kingdom with his former contractor, Padraig O’Halloran, and others that may very well permanently sabotage BBR’s sale or hold it up for years, and hypothetical figures presented by Mr. Glasgow suggest that the creditors would receive far less than 10 percent of any investment back if the resort were sold.
Any but the most impecunious of investors would likely reject this amount in a final sale, preferring to see the resort liquidated — distributed in bits and pieces — rather than allowing Kelly Glass et al. and the Government of SVG to benefit from their foolhardy investment decisions.
As for the hundreds of Vincentian workers, contractors, and suppliers who have remained unpaid, they will never receive as much as a farthing in compensation.
In his Feb. 5, 2019 Budget address, Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Finance, stated that, “Today, the new investment group [Glass et al.] is on board at Buccament.” What he should have said is that rather than being “on board” all relevant parties are very much treading water in a shark infested sea when it comes to this exceedingly complex issue.
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