Nassau: Uncertainty over Cable Beach?

Nassau Guardian, Bahamas
March 18 2004

Uncertainty over Cable Beach?

By LINDSAY THOMPSON, Guardian Business Editor [email protected]

Hotel Corporation Chairman George Smith says he has not been informed
that Lyford Cay billionaire Dikran Izmirlian withdrew a $1 billion
proposal for an upscale redevelopment of Cable Beach.

A “no comment” response came from the Izmirlian residence when The
Guardian called there Tuesday afternoon.

Additionally, a source close to the situation told The Guardian that
noted hotelier George Myers and a group of Bahamian businessmen
called “Prestige” were also interested in the project.

Mr. Myers told The Guardian that he was watching the process and “was
not interested at this time”.

Mr. Smith was asked how close was the government to announcing a
preferred developer for the Cable Beach redevelopment project.

He noted that plenty “ingredients” are involved in the process, and
that Prime Minister Perry Christie has “very, very high ambitions”
for Cable Beach.

The government owns the Radisson Cable Beach Resort, which has
undergone tremendous refurbishing, particularly to 150 rooms, which
were damaged by Hurricane Michelle in November 2001.

Other improvements were carried out the exterior of the property, the
grounds, the escalator, the golf course with netting and lighting,
which impacts upon the value of the property, Mr. Smith said. And,
there is an anticipated 100 per cent occupancy over the next several
weeks, he added.

A number of groups have expressed interests in developing the Cable
Beach strip, which includes the Radisson, Wyndham Nassau Resort and
Crystal Palace Casino and the Nassau Beach Hotel, in addition to the
former Hobby Horse racetrack land opposite.

The Wyndham and Nassau Beach hotels are owned by Phil Ruffin, who is
reportedly refusing to sell to the Swiss-Armenian billionaire Dikran
Izmirlian who owns the largest real estate plot in Lyford Cay.

A source representing Calstar Properties of Orange County, California
told The Guardian it is interested in the development, at an
estimated $500 million.

Calstar Properties estimates that the redevelopment of the hotels
would be completed within 36 months. The opposite land would take a
bit longer and would comprise a convention centre, an amusement and
entertainment park.

According to the source the project will not disrupt the Cable Beach
area as, “We are not pulling down.” It is anticipated that between
1,600 and 1,800 permanent jobs would be created at the completion of
the project.

Mr. Smith noted that the golf course is on 110 acres of land
surrounded by an additional 30 acres of “excellent land with
tremendous value”, and about 55 acres of the Hobby Horse racetrack.

“Those are very valuable assets and the government and the
corporation want to find the best possible entities to proceed with
the massive improvements to make it into a first class destination,”
Mr. Smith said.

It has also been said that potential developers are seeking the same
type of tax concessions granted Kerzner International when it opened
its resort on Paradise Island.

Analysts say that most investors would like to get the “most generous
concessions” but those have to be negotiated and in some cases what
may appear to be generous in one area, is not in another.

The deal surrounding Radisson seems to be taking shape like that of
the sale of Bahamas Telecommunication Communications (the government
went through a bidding process, then decided to postpone the sale).

To this, Mr. Smith said, “Radisson is an ongoing hotel that is doing
a whole lot better now that it was a year ago. It has all its rooms
in very good condition, we have retained the staff and there was
great temptation when the 150 rooms were not in circulation to lay
off staff… this makes it an attractive hotel to a purchaser.”