Cooper urges govt. to “come clean” on Grand Lucayan sale

Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper arrives at the House of Assembly to destroy the FNM Government. – FILE PHOTO (Photo by Torrell Glinton)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader and Shadow Finance Minister Chester Cooper last night called on the government to update the public on the status of the sale of the Grand Lucayan, as well as the latest terms of the sale with Royal Caribbean and ITM.

Cooper’s said: “The Progressive Liberal Party insists that the government, firstly, update the public on the status of the sale. We insist that the latest terms of the sale of the Grand Lucayan to Royal Caribbean and ITM be immediately made public.

“We demand that this administration be transparent and release the details of the reopening strategy for the hotel, which is supposed to happen in less than two weeks, inclusive of the strategy for airlift, staffing and details of any advanced bookings.

“We insist that this administration make clear the dollar amount of this investment, which we warned against, made on the backs of Bahamian taxpayers.

“We believe that it is now well in excess of $150 million.”

Speaking to the recent revelation that negotiations regarding sale of the Grand Lucayan property have been taken over by Cabinet, Cooper added: “One has to wonder if this administration can get anything done along the timeline promised and without mass confusion.

“[Michael] Scott has been at the forefront of the sale of the hotel since the government bought the property against all good sense and fiscal prudence. We said then that it was an ‘egregiously bad deal’.

“If Scott, who, last I checked, was chairman of Lucayan Renewal Holdings and the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas, is not negotiating the sale, then who on earth is? At last report, Scott was unhappy with the terms of the deal being considered by the government.”

Cooper argued that negotiations over the long-delayed sale being taken over by Cabinet therefore raises questions on “the quality of the terms the government is prepared to accept”.

He suggested that the government’s “apparent desperation” to offload the property and try to reopen it no matter the losses incurred “smacks of an election ploy lacking the fiduciary duty of care the Bahamian people demand”.

“The government must come clean about this property and it must make it make sense,” said Cooper.

Last November, Scott in an interview with Eyewitness News indicated there were “reservations” surrounding the restructured proposal for the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort and whether the deal still represents the best interest of the Bahamian people.

Scott said an independent forensic audit was being performed to assess the deal and that he would not sign off on an unfavorable deal, adding that he was prepared to explore other options for the sale of the resort.

The government has signed a heads of agreement with Bahamas Port Investments Limited, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean International and ITM Group, for the sale of the resort and development of a cruise port at Freeport Harbour that was expected to accommodate three ships in phase one, and up to seven ships in subsequent phases. The plan also included a casino, water park, restaurant and retail center.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the sale, according to the government, which has said the developers remain committed to the deal.