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Sweet and bitter almond


Pat Hoyos

Sweet and bitter almond

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The seeds of Prunus dulcis var. dulcis are predominately sweet, but some individual trees produce seeds that are somewhat more bitter . . . . – Wikipedia
Chief executive officer (CEO) of Neal & Massy Holdings Inc., Gervase Warner, made a brief return to the province of Bimshire last week as the natives seemed restless. Upset, even.
To wit, comments in the Press that somehow the conglomerate had “dropped a bomb” at the recent Almond Resorts Inc. shareholders meeting and “was not sufficiently considerate of the implications to the Almond Beach Village workers, the national interests of Barbados and of good corporate social responsibility generally”, according to a statement read out by Mr Warner at a Press conference on Friday.
How could the workers at Almond be shocked to hear that they were all going home in just a few weeks when all the signals had been sent, he wondered?
Did they not read the December advertisement in the Press warning shareholders that the group was coming to the end of its resources available for Almond? What about the letter to shareholders announcing the April meeting, and warning them more explicitly of possible closure at the end of the tourist season?
At Friday’s Press conference, I had the impression that I was attending a hastily arranged funeral service for an entity already removed from the conglomerate’s smart new vision for the future.
The sweet Almonds we had known and come to admire under the Barbadian majority ownership of BS&T had turned into bitter fruit within just four years under Neal & Massy.
The brushfire that sent the Neal & Massy top brass back into Bimshire last week was therefore dealt with in the following way:
(a) How could you not have read the signs, all you news people, commentators and workers?
(b) We want you to know how very disappointed we are as well, but better could not be done as it was really the recession’s fault;
(c) Hey, look out for Butch – he’s the guy who could really turn this thing around. Let’s hope he buys the Village; and
(d) Can we now get back to implementing our already-published post-Almond five-year plan, with its integrated consumer and strategic investment portfolios? We have a big group to run.
While no one can fault any CEO, management team or board of directors for trying to maximise shareholder revenue, which means running their operations at a healthy profit, sometimes there are other factors in the mix which add shades of grey to that black-and-white business model.
It is clear that Neal & Massy Holdings has moved on after ring-fencing Almond’s losses on its books, and is therefore now somewhat surprised to find a universal wail of anguish erupting among the populace of Barbados. That’s because Neal & Massy Holdings, I am now convinced, is so emotionally distant from the hearts and minds of Barbadians that it simply does not understand the true signal it has sent, the true line it has crossed, and the giant disconnect it has firmly established between itself and this country.
What is good for Neal & Massy Holdings’ books when it comes to Almond Beach Village will result in severe job losses at a time when unemployment is at its highest in years. And while it might be true that a buyer will have to close the property for refurbishment, to use that as an excuse is akin to saying: listen up, Bajans, Super Centre isn’t doing all that well either, so we are going to shut down the one at Warrens and then some new buyer will eventually buy it off of us, refurbish it to a much better state than it is currently in and maybe employ twice as many of you all. So, suck it up until then.
Like Super Centre, Almond is a home-grown brand, in which all of us had invested some pride. According to Ralph Taylor, Almond has over the years accounted for about eight per cent of the annual long-stay tourists in Barbados. The three current Almond properties – the Village, the Club, and Casuarina – provide about 5 000 meals a day to their guests, and many of the ingredients for those meals come from local producers.
The Neal & Massy decision, therefore, strikes a cruel and unnecessary blow at the heart of the Barbados economy, both at the domestic level and in its ability to earn foreign exchange, at a time when the economy is already in a weakened state. Those are the shades of grey in this scenario.
Yet, Neal & Massy wants to be known, per its new company slogan, as A Force For Good – The Most Responsible And Profitable Investment Holding/Management Company In The Caribbean Basin”.
After they flushed Almond down the toilet.
Pat Hoyos is a publisher and business writer.

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