The Royal Gazette
Government wants Southlands Ltd. to get a five-star hotel chain on board for Morgan’s Point before the land exchange is completed, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
A Government spokesman told this newspaper yesterday that the Southlands owners have indicated that their multi-million dollar resort on the former baselands in Southampton is likely to be a Ritz-Carlton, due to their development partner John Ryan’s relationship with the brand. But the spokesman said a firmer commitment was needed.
Meanwhile, Ritz-Carlton spokesman Vivian Deuschl said: “I have no indication this development is more than speculative and rumours.”
A Southlands Ltd. spokeswoman said: “The Southlands team will be well-positioned to attract a five-star brand once the land swap is completed.”
The row over the exchange escalated yesterday as Nelson Hunt, one of the three Bermudian directors of Southlands Ltd., called a radio talk show to furiously denounce Government’s handling of the deal.
Shouting and, at one point, swearing on the Everest DaCosta programme, the local businessman said: “Everything I have f***ing worked for is on the line. The bank is circling me like Indians.”
He said of Premier Ewart Brown’s decision to suggest a new development partner, Patrick Ellis, for the proposed resort: “Don’t tell me you are taking somebody in from the Turks and Caicos and he’s going to be the developer. It ain’t going to happen — over my dead body. I’m not playing any more. Seriously, I’m not playing. Get it done.”
Mr. Hunt, who apologised for cursing, said the resort he and partners Brian Duperreault and Craig Christensen were planning at Morgan’s Point was a “$2 billion build up” which would create jobs. He claimed the pristine Southlands land in Warwick was worth $3 million an acre.
“Give me $3 million an acre and I’ll be long gone,” he said. “If you don’t want us there, pay us off and we’ll go. But we are in this for the long run because it benefits everyone.”
Mr. Duperreault, who bought Southlands with Mr. Hunt and Mr. Christensen in 2005 and signed an agreement to swap the 37-acre estate with Government for 80 acres at Morgan’s Point in 2008, said earlier this week that the Premier had stalled the deal and treated them unfairly.
But Dr. Brown posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday evening: “I am not holding it up…they are.” He wrote that Southlands Ltd. wanted a 1,300-plus room resort and 2,000 work permits which was “not acceptable”.
The Government spokesman told this newspaper that the project proposed by Southlands Ltd. for Morgan’s Point would require at least 1,000 work permits for construction and hotel staff.
“It could create a problem because we have to deal with the issue of housing and the strain on the infrastructure,” said the spokesman.
The Southlands spokeswoman said: “The number of jobs created is commensurate with the size and scale of the development. Our last instruction from the Premier was that the proposed development includes 500 hotel rooms.”
She added: “The Southlands team is committed to producing a model that works for the Government and for the Bermuda model.
“Patrick Ellis’s proposed plan for a 40-room hotel on 80 acres is not, in our opinion, financially viable for the Morgan’s Point site. We will accept the invitation from Premier Brown to present to the full Cabinet in March.”
The Southlands site in Warwick was due to be developed in partnership with Dubai-based luxury hotel chain Jumeirah before the land swap was agreed.
Global insurance boss Mr. Duperreault said this week that Jumeirah could still be in the picture but the likelihood was that another five-star brand would be involved.
The Government spokesman said yesterday: “They haven’t told us that it’s not likely to be Jumeirah. But they have indicated that John Ryan has a relationship with the Ritz-Carlton and that they are relatively sure that this would be a partnership with the Ritz-Carlton.
“At this stage, it would be useful to have a clear indication of the brand partner. It’s important to put into perspective, I think, that part of the decision [to swap the land] was always centred around brand partners.
“I think what they should do, as other developers have done, is to evidence the progress and the firmness of their desire to proceed with a certain brand partner; to attract a senior person with significant standing in that organisation to come to Bermuda to participate in their decision; to indicate to the Government that ‘this is the level of interest in regard to our brand’.”
The spokesman said developer Mr. Ellis had been involved in resorts in Turks and Caicos, including the Amanyara, and could bring the exclusive Amanresorts chain to the partnership.
“He is a brand; he is Aman,” the spokesman said of Mr. Ellis. It was not possible to get a comment from Amanresorts yesterday.