700-Member BREA Congratulates Government on Lucayan Sale, Disappointed in Seller for Using Foreign Broker

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President of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) Christine Wallace-Whitfield blasted Lucayan Renewal Holdings today for ignoring local professionals and using a foreign firm to list the Grand Lucayan Hotel and Port Lucaya. “There are more than 700 licensed real estate professionals in The Bahamas, many with firms that have the best international affiliations as well as other local firms that work in conjunction with international based firms in the world,” said Wallace-Whitfield. “For a holding company that is a representative of the government of The Bahamas to ignore those 700-plus individuals and world-class internationally-affiliated firms to list what may be the largest single sales transaction of the year is reprehensible, a real slap in the face.”

According to BREA rules and the laws of The Bahamas, all real estate transactions within the country, including those to foreign entities, must involve the services of a licensed Bahamian broker. “We are, at this very moment, dealing with infractions by foreigners coming into the country and selling Bahamian property,” said Wallace-Whitfield, who said her phone had been ringing off the hook since the sale of the Grand Lucayan and harbor properties was announced yesterday with the news that the sale was coordinated through Colliers International, a company based in Toronto, Canada with offices throughout the world but not in The Bahamas. “Please do not misunderstand us on this,” Wallace-Whitfield continued. “BREA is thrilled that the Grand Lucayan will have a new owner and that Royal Caribbean International, which has been a good friend of The Bahamas for 50 years, will be part of the new ownership. The cruise line’s marketing reach is legendary and we are eager to see the project plans which Royal Caribbean and its partner, ITM Group, have. We have no qualms whatsoever with the sale. We believe that it will provide the economic engine that will drive Freeport and Grand Bahama farther than it has ever gone before. More than a restoration, it will be a re-birth and we congratulate all parties involved, but we remain adamant that a Bahamian real estate firm should have been involved.”

Wallace-Whitfield said less than 24 hours after news broke of the signing of the letter of intent, the BREA board voted to register its “shock, disappointment and dismay” that the transaction was handed to a foreign company. Most well-known real estate franchises have Bahamian affiliate offices, including Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Christie’s, Coldwell Banker, Engel & Volkers, ERA, Luxury Portfolio, NAI Commercial and Sotheby’s, however, there are many many well-known Local Brokerage firms throughout the Bahamas, that have International relationships to assist them. The signing took place on Wednesday in Grand Bahama with government officials including Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar, Sen. Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senate President Katherine Forbes-Smith and Michael Scott, who has been tasked with dealing with the Grand Lucayan since government purchased the property.

Russell Benford, Royal Caribbean International Vice President, Government Relations Americas, signed on behalf of Royal Caribbean. Mauricio Humal, CEO of ITM Group, signed on behalf of the Mexico-based hotel and water park operator. According to officials, there had been 62 expressions of interest and 11 serious proposals submitted. The winning joint-venture proposal calls for redevelopment of the multi-hotel property, rejuvenation of the harbour with dining, entertainment, attractions and retail. Initial investment is expected to reach $195 million over the first two years and create some 2,000 jobs.

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