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Prime Minister Gaston Browne anticipates that the Grand Royal Antiguan Resort will surpass its former glory now that the dilapidated property has been sold to the Canadian company, Sunwing Travel Group, for US$27 million.
He confirmed to OBSERVER media, yesterday, that the purchase agreement has been signed, with Sunwing depositing 10 per cent of the funds as stipulated by the current owner, Issa Nicholas of Trinidad & Tobago.
“It is just a matter of Sunwing remitting the remaining 90 per cent and for Nicholas to transfer the property to Sunwing,” Browne said.
Efforts to reach Nicholas or officials from Sunwing were unsuccessful.
But the prime minister has asserted that “the sooner we can get Royal out of the hands of Issa Nicholas, the better, because it is in the national interest”.
The government is so eager to see the back of Nicholas that the appreciation tax and transfer taxes will be waived according to the country’s leader.
The soon-to-be-completed transaction culminates a near three-year battle between Nicholas and the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, which had threatened to compulsorily acquire and sell the Grand Royal Antiguan Resort if the businessman did not invest in the property.
Nicholas bought the hotel for US $18 million in 2004, with a performance clause to spend US $12 million to upgrade it to a first-class conference centre. Browne has long contended that the then United Progressive Party administration undervalued the former state-owned property.
So, what about the new owner Sunwing? The website of the vertically integrated conglomerate states that it is the largest tour operator in North America and generated US $2 billion in annual revenue.
When earlier efforts to purchase the Grand Royal Antiguan did not pan out, the group bought land adjacent to that property, on which it plans to build a $400 million Royalton Antigua Hotel & Resort.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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