Izmirlian offers to beat secret Chinese deal to reclaim his Baha Mar

The original developer of the $3.5bn mega resort in the Bahamas, Baha Mar, has made an extraordinary offer to a Chinese state-owned bank to regain control of his hotel complex after being ousted by government and legal manoeuvres last year.

Sarkis Izmirlian this week offered to buy back the nearly complete resort from the Export Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) for a price higher than whatever has been offered by a secret Chinese buyer now negotiating with Exim Bank.

In a letter this week to the bank and to Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie, Izmirlian said his company, BMD Holdings Ltd, would also pay 100% of all "substantiated Bahamian claims" and all monies owed to Bahamian and expat employees, and drop "all of its appeals and legal actions in effect within the Bahamian Courts".

Sarkis, son of billionaire Dikran Izmirlian, also claimed that he would have the full funding necessary in place for whatever the superior price offer amounted to.

The letter, addressed personally to Exim Bank president Liu Liange, accuses the bank of taking "all potential viable assets" out of Baha Mar and leaving behind "all the obligations".

But it ends on a conciliatory note. "President Liu," Izmirlian wrote, "I ask that we put our disagreements of the past year behind us. Together, we can move ahead to a swift and mutually beneficial resolution for Baha Mar, which will result in the resort being open as soon as possible to serve the best interests of The Bahamas, as well as the bank. Now more than ever the country, in its time of need, requires us to come together."

The offer, which follows another made in April this year, came after it emerged that the Exim Bank, which lent the scheme $2.4bn in 2010, had purchased the resort from its own appointed receivers in preparation for sale to an undisclosed Chinese buyer.

The beachfront resort project, billed as the biggest leisure development in Caribbean history, with casinos and four branded hotels, has been in limbo since June 2015 when Izmirlian sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, blaming the scheme’s Chinese contractor for repeatedly missed opening deadlines.

Challenged in US courts by the Chinese side, Izmirlian failed in his Chapter 11 bid, while the Bahamas government forced the scheme into liquidation. The Exim bank subsequently placed the resort in receivership.

The bank then tried to sell the resort through a strict sales process administered by the receivers, but no bids were accepted.

Prime Minister Christie took credit for a breakthrough in August this year, saying his government had arrived at a deal whereby the Exim Bank would pay for completing the resort, and sell it to an undisclosed "world-class hotel and casino operator", with construction expected to resume last month.

The Exim Bank has not yet responded to Izmirlian’s latest offer.

Image: Sealing the deal: Sarkis Izmirlian, centre, shakes hands with Exim Bank vice president Li Jun, left, and China State Construction vice president Liu Jinzhang on 30 March, 2010. The Chinese bank and state-owned contractor agreed to finance and build Baha Mar after Izmirlian’s original partners pulled out after the 2008 financial crash (Source: China Construction America)

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