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NHT To Spend Another $20 Million For Outameni Rights

Published:Tuesday | November 11, 2014 | 11:36 PMTameka Gordon

The National Housing Trust (NHT) still has to shell out at least another $20 million for intellectual property rights and other costs related to its acquisition of the Outameni Experience attraction, Wednesday Business has learned.

The NHT board at its December 3, 2012 meeting approved the acquisition of the property as a going concern for $180 million.

But "Sometime in August 2013, it became clear that the NHT had not bought all the assets of Orange Valley Holding Limited (OVHL) as it relates to the Outameni Experience but had only purchased the buildings and that there would need to be further negotiations with Mr Lennie Little White to acquire the chattels including the props and equipment in the presentation of the experience," said an internal memorandum obtained by Wednesday Business.

The memo was written by the acting managing director just over two months ago, on September 1. Martin Miller is acting in the post.

These revelations are emerging two weeks after NHT chairman Easton Douglas first told Wednesday Business, which broke the story, that the Trust had acquired the attraction "lock, stock and barrel", excluding some of the furnishings, which the agency did not need.

He said the trust would be investing $111 more in the operation over three years to improve and expand its product offerings.

Outameni Experience involves a dramatisation of historic events. Essentially, the intellectual property rights and Outameni brand are owned by a Toronto-based company, according to the memo.

negotiate licence

"The NHT will need to negotiate the use of the intellectual property, (renew the licence) from Barefoot Princess Incorporated Toronto, the name, the concept and the scripts," it said.

The name, the logo, concepts, and the scripts, are all copyrighted, the acting MD said.

Prior to the sale, Orange Valley Holding staged the dramatisations under a five-year licence from Barefoot Princess, which owns the to the performance rights. Barefoot essentially provided the actors and music.

That licence was said not to be transferable under the sale.

The acting MD said however that OVHL is prepared "to cooperate to make it economically feasible to obtain audio visuals where possible. This would be at an additional cost."

Little-White declined comment when pressed on the relationship between Outameni and Barefoot Princess on Tuesday.

But while referencing NHT board member Lambert Brown's utterances amid discussions on the acquisition, Little White declared: "NHT did not buy the Outameni concept, they did not buy the name, they did not buy the chattels, they did not buy the copyright.

They "bought the land and the buildings," he said.

The only reference Wednesday Business found to Barefoot Princess was the Canadian registration of an entity called Barefoot Princess Films Inc, whose sole director was named as Damali Kai Little-White.

Lennie Little-White said the buildings acquired by the NHT includes the three centuries old Great House and the built themed attraction, or as he put it more directly, "the things that are in the concrete ... the real estate."

The NHT needs to "purchase the chattel, the intellectual property, the script, and the props," the trust's acting MD acknowledged.

There is also $2.11 million cost for items that include a stand by generator, a tent, and office furnishings, the memo said.

Overall: "The purchase of chattel and intellectual property rights related to the re-opening of the Experience [is] an estimated $20 million," the document notes.

The acquisition of Outameni was wrapped up in 2013. The title was transferred on May 27 of that year and NHT took possession of the property in July 2013.

Up to May 2014, the trust had spent $196 million on the attraction. The expenditure excluded the salary of the general manager and administrative assistant who were hired a month later in June 2014.

"In addition to these costs, the salary of the general manager and the administrative assistant will be included in the monthly expenditure going forward," the document stated.

Requests for NHT to clarify the spend and other issues were unanswered up to press time.

Outameni was closed on July 23, 2013, "at the instruction of the NHT". It was initially to reopen for business last month, October 2014, but the gates were found padlocked at the weekend.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com