Gordon “Butch” Stewart (FILE)
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Chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), Gordon “Butch” Stewart, is disappointed about the uncertain future of his multimillion-dollar Beaches investment at Heywoods, St Peter.
The resort, estimated at $800 million and projected to inject more than US$100 million into Barbados’ ailing economy annually, was supposed to get under way in January. But while delivering the 2019 Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley said, “We have reached a difficult moment in the negotiations that may result in the project being pulled or stalled.”
Mottley, who last October backed the project and described it as the “light” that was “necessary to bring hope and to help Barbados out of this very difficult set of circumstances”, on Wednesday charged its halt was the result of SRI wanting assurances and guarantees over and above what they had already received. These included exemption from any future taxes for anything, or for any other goods and services that others in the industry were paying over the next 40 years – 25 years in full and 15 through extension.
However, in an exclusive telephone interview, Stewart, whose Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados employ 1 100 people, stated that, “we were not asking for more concessions, we were not asking for anything”.
“It was not anything more than what we already have as an agreement,” the Jamaican businessman said, adding there were only three items that his company indicated needed to be properly ratified in Parliament.
Although he declined to state what they were, Stewart argued they were to “provide the long, long-term security for the agreement that we had in place which the banks and our board of directors require”.
The “king of all-inclusive resorts” explained that the consortia they borrow money from required more than “promises”.
“Their needs at this time is more than promises. It needs to be secured to the proper documentation and I don’t think we were asking for more. We were asking for parliamentary approval,” he said.
Stating that they had already spent a “considerable” amount of money on the project, Stewart said he felt no resentment toward the Prime Minister.
“I am happy with Barbados. I am very happy. I love your Prime Minister. I think both sides tried very hard to make something work. It’s a huge investment, a long-term investment, a very long-term investment. It is not far away from a half of a billion US dollars.
“We have no issue with the politics on either side or anywhere. We’re just as disappointed as anybody else it has not worked out. Every Government has their priorities and every Government has their policies and it is not for me or our company to ask them to change. And if they are not comfortable with it then the last thing in the world that we would want to do is provide any form of discomfort,” he said.
Stewart said that while the Barbados enterprise was unsettled, there was no dearth of interest from other territories to be the home of the Beaches brand.
On whether the relationship with the island was damaged, the hotel mogul maintained, “not at all”.
“For what it’s worth, the Beaches development along with what we already have would provide a footing for Barbados of well over US$100 million a year. And that means a major contribution to any economy. We are not people that take anything from the country, we are people that bring efforts and production to the country,” he said. (SDB Media)