THE HOYOS FILE: Living in a Massy paradise
As I drive around this beloved country of ours I find myself rapping to myself. Luckily for my fellow Barbadians, it is a silent rap, and it’s the same every time: “Been spending most our lives/Living in a Massy paradise.”
In Barbados, it seems, it’s Massy, here, Massy there, Massy everywhere. It has even been surprising to me, as one who witnessed the “Battle of BS&T” back around 2007.
That was when Neal & Massy’s (N&M) meticulously planned “friendly” acquisition bid triggered the Takeover Code (if I remember correctly) and led to a bidding war, mainly with its arch-rival, ANSA McAl Ltd.
But because N&M decided to lie low until all the memories of said tumult had vaporised in the hurly-burly of daily business, it was easy to partly forget that all of the former BS&T subsidiaries were now absorbed into the T&T group, with the BS&T stock delisted and all consequential mind-and-management emanating from the carnival-rich republic.
Then came the Almond debacle. This, you may remember, resulted from N&M’s decision to get out of the tourism business, after professing its commitment to it even after it had gobbled up BS&T.
And while I had no problem (this is personally speaking) with any decision a business makes in order to survive and move forward as it sees fit, I was very conflicted about N&M’s decision.
Part of the reason, I guess, was that I believed, and still believe, that any company which relies so much on a country’s foreign exchange-earning capacity, either directly or indirectly, to succeed, owes a moral duty to help that country earn some foreign exchange as well.
But N&M was losing money heavily at Almond Resorts, along with another investor, Goddard Enterprises Ltd, which had already written off its $30 million-plus investment and moved on.
As I say, I was conflicted, and there was nothing the new CEO of Neal & Massy, Gervase Warner, could do to console me. I was actually fairly rude to him at a Press conference he had called, about which I felt bad afterwards.
I haven’t seen him since to apologise. I don’t think he cares too much for me, and I wouldn’t fault him for that given the circumstances of our first encounter.
After going through their statements on Almond in successive annual reports, it does seem to me that there was an about-turn by the group.
Somewhere along the line there seemed to be a reversal of decisions going one way – to invest more and nurse the Almond properties back to health – and all of sudden it was “Get out, now!”
Two years on, Almond Casuarina is undergoing an expensive makeover under the guidance of the Midas of Caribbean tourism, the Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who has now also bought the Almond Beach Village property in St Peter, but has indicated a “Hold” position on its redevelopment for the present. Almond Beach Club in St James was sold off to another party.
But it seems that with all this happening many people here forgot how much BS&T had owned by way of companies and yes, property. So, as a result of the acquisition, if they were to put up a sign on every lot and building which the newly-renamed Massy Group currently owns around the island, saying, for example, “Massy Property” or perhaps, less subtly, “M.O.D.T. (Massy Own Dis Too),” we might all really be in for a shock. It’s nearly the whole of Bridgetown (well, not quite).
Suddenly seeing all the still-operating subsidiaries renamed Massy This and Massy That finally brought home to people how many businesses became foreign-owned when BS&T’s shares were sold off to Port-of-Spain. One of these days somebody will write the book on how Barbados became an economic province of Trinidad & Tobago in our lifetime, actually, in just 30 or so years.
Anyway, I am writing this today, because as you know, I always try to give Jack his whatever, and the investment made by the Massy Group into this country since selling off Almond, and especially in a long recession, is worthy of praise.
There has been the complete refurbishment of Super Centre Warrens to include dry goods and electronics departments, the complete refitting of the Autodome into what is now called the Dome Mall, or is it the Massy Dome?
And they have spent millions outfitting their new Massy Store at Sky Mall. Of course, they also spent a lot of money on all the rebranding under the new logo and group name as well.
The Massy Group does deserve credit for this, and for, at the same time, keeping up the standard of the former Super Centres to their extremely high level.
And while I still dislike the new group name, I offer kudos to Warner for keeping the commitment he made to this country at the height of his trial by fire under the Almond tree.