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Caymanas divestment deal a month behind schedule

Published:Friday | October 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Caymanas Park, the race track operated by Caymanas Track Limited.

Negotiations on the terms under which Caymanas Track Limited will be acquired by Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) won't be derailed by the passing of the gaming company's boss, the parties have said.

The talks are already a month behind, having missed a September deadline previously anticipated by Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) for a deal to be sent to Cabinet for ratification.

The late Brian George was lead negotiator for the SVL team. His finance chief has been tapped as interim replacement at SVL until the lottery company recruits a new CEO.

The company emerged the preferred bidder for the horse racing company and operator of Caymanas Park racetrack earlier this year.

The Government's six-member negotiating team, led by Arthur Williams, has been negotiating with SVL since May of this year. George's sudden passing on Sunday, October 23 was met with shock and dismay on the part of the DBJ, which, in a statement, spoke in glowing terms of George's intellect and his passion for the SVL and the racing sector.

"We were extremely fortunate over the past five months to have shared memorable moments in his company. His calm and cheerful countenance, sincere and professional approach to finding solutions, and measured contributions to debate have indeed inspired us on our side of the negotiation table," said the DBJ release.

Parties to the talks had initially signalled that a deal was expected by July. However, in late June, the DBJ said the state then anticipated that the negotiations would have been be completed and recommendations submitted to Cabinet by September.

SVL chairman Paul Hoo declined to comment, saying he remains devastated by George's passing. Simone Clarke-Cooper, assistant vice-president for corporate affairs, said the SVL board had moved to "fill the huge gap left" by George.

"Our senior vice-president of finance, Mr James 'Danny' Morrison, has been appointed interim CEO until someone is appointed," Clarke-Cooper said.

She added that SVL was committed to striking a deal for the acquisition of CTL and that the company would soldier on with the talks despite the difficulty of George's passing.

"Regarding the Caymanas deal, negotiations are ongoing and will continue," Clarke-Cooper affirmed.

The Financial Gleaner reached out to several agencies connected to the divestment and the status of the negotiations given the missed deadline that preceded George's passing.

DBJ directed queries to the Public Enterprises Division of the Ministry of Finance, which, in turn, directed them to the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC). There was no response from BGLC up to press time. The current negotiations are meant to finalise price, payment plan, period of privatisation, options, and a development plan, among other terms and conditions.

"Where the Government has a continued interest in the provision of the service, this may include specific payment terms and service standards to be met, as well as penalties and termination provisions for non-performance by the selected bidder," DBJ said back in June.