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Celebration chairman says casino project has multiple backers

Published:Sunday | August 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
From left: General secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party, Horace Chang; Dennis Mills, Celebration Jamaica committee chairman; Marcus Deutsch, Celebration Jamaica; and Marjorie Ffye-Campbell at a cocktail reception by Celebration Jamaica at the Iberostar Grand last Wednesday night. - Photo by Janet Silvera

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Dennis Mills, chairman of Celebration Jamaica Development Limited, said last Wednesday that the company has put together a financing proposal that is backed by several corporate entities for its casino resort project.

Celebration is one of two companies still in the running for a development order needed to qualify for a casino licence.

Its Montego Bay-based project is the brainchild of Robert Trotta, the businessman who also conceptualised the Palmyra condominium complex. The latter development, which is incomplete, is currently in receivership for what its bankers allege are unpaid debts on US$110 million of loans.

Trotta disputes the debt and has sued his bankers for about US$110 million.

Mills, a Canadian, declined comment on how the Celebration casino project would be underwritten, but said it would not rely on any single individual to succeed.

"The proposed ownership structure for the development comprises a consortium of corporate investors and relies on no single individual participation," he said via email to Sunday Business.

Previous reports by this newspaper had identified Celebration Jamaica Limited (CJL) as the bidder. However, last week, Mills said the bidder was CJDL, which was confirmed by the Ministry of Finance.

CJDL's managing director, Markus Deutsch, reaffirmed Friday that: "Celebration Jamaica Limited is neither owned by CJDL nor is it the formal applicant, nor is Mr Mills an officer or director of CJL."

Celebration Jamaica Development is not registered in Jamaica and CDJL representatives have declined to identify the shareholders in the company. Deutsch said CJDL is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, but "will in time certainly have multiple wholly owned Jamaican operating subsidiaries as the project progresses".

Celebration Jamaica Limited, which was incorporated in Jamaica in December 2007, does have some connection to CDJL, according to Deutsch, who said CJL "was an exploratory entity utilised to engage in preliminary studies about the potential of casino gaming in Jamaica, but is not the ultimate applicant for an integrated resort or casino".

One of CJL's directors is Robert Trotta; the other is Australian Franz Deutsch. CJL's sole shareholder is identified as CJL Holdings Limited (CJHL) based in St Lucia.

CJL has itself been connected to the Palmyra development, according to documents filed with the Companies Office of Jamaica in January by RBC Royal Bank Jamaica.

GUARANTEE DEBENTURE

A notice of Transfer of Debentures to the Companies Office registrar indicates that RBC Cayman now holds a "guarantee debenture" issued by Celebration Jamaica Limited as security for the borrowings of companies used to finance the Palmyra project. The transfer of debentures from RBC Jamaica to RBC Cayman occurred on January 31, 2014, ahead of the sale of the Jamaican banking operation to Sagicor Group, which acquired the business debt-free.

Approved casino resort investors will be required to invest at least a total of US$1.2 billion in their integrated developments.

Celebration Jamaica plans to spend US$450 million on the first phase of its project.

"The project is fully independent from a financing, project management, construction, board and operating standpoint. Information on the proposed financing of the project, which is a requirement, is confidential and cannot be disclosed," said chairman Mills.

"More information will be released by the board of directors of Celebration Jamaica on a time to time basis as appropriate, required, and necessary," he said.

Celebration's project includes 2,000 hotel rooms, a 75,000 square foot Casino & Sports Book complex; retail space; artisan village; a Caribbean World Music Entertainment Complex, and other facilities.

Senior International Counsel and former prime minister, P.J. Patterson, is an adviser to the group.

The other casino resort project under consideration for a development order is Harmony Cove, a partnership of state-owned Harmonisation Limited and Tavistock Group.

The Jamaican Government at last report was still trying to tie down financing from the Chinese for the project, which is expected to cost US$900 million in its first phase.

Assessment of the two bids is ongoing. A decision is expected in September.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com