Sat | Aug 8, 2020

New owner takes control of Morgan’s Harbour hotel

Published:Wednesday | February 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
The Morgan’s Harbour hotel in Port Royal.

Morgan’s Harbour Hotel now has a new owner, a Malta-based company that took possession last month following a court ruling ordering the former operator to ­vacate the property.

The sale price to Grand Hotel Excelsior Limited has not been disclosed.

In December, the Court of Appeal gave Lashmont Financial Services a month to vacate the hotel, an order which upheld a February 2018 Supreme Court decision made by Justice Carol Edwards in favour of the receiver-­managers for Morgan’s Harbour, Wilfred Baghaloo and Caydion Campbell.

The sale comes more than four years into the receivership.

Since Lashmont Financial Services appointed them in September 2015 to recover a debt, the joint receivers have been trying to dispose of the Morgan’s Harbour Hotel, which included approximately 24 acres of leased lands.

Bids for the hotel, which was formerly controlled and chaired by Neville Blythe, were invited in 2016.

“We wanted to gain an understanding of the challenges the company faced. So in addition to looking at the business model, particularly the hotel operation, we met with various stakeholders including the National Land Agency, Tourism Product Development Company Limited, members of the Jamaica Tourist Board, and Jamaica National Heritage Trust, among others,” said Baghaloo.

The assets of Morgan’s Harbour Limited were primarily comprised of long-term leasehold rights to six parcels of land located in Port Royal, one of which was home to the hotel.

In a statement, Baghaloo said another of the leaseholds was for the Old Coal Wharf, which is the current location of the Port Authority of Jamaica’s cruise ship pier. The leased lands are owned by the Government of Jamaica.

Grand Hotel Excelsior, which operates hotels in Malta and other markets, was selected preferred bidder from among six contenders – one of which was affiliated with Lashmont.

The sale agreement to the Malta company was signed back in June 2017, but its implementation was stalled when the Port Authority indicated that it wanted the Coal Wharf lands for development of a cruise terminal.

An agreement was reached with the Port Authority in April 2019, the specifics of which were not determined; and the receivers entered into a revised agreement with Grand Hotel last November.

During these events, Baghaloo and Campbell were also fighting efforts by Lashmont to fire them – a move they resisted through the court.

Lashmont, which was operating the property under the name Grand Port Royal Marina and Spa, complied with the court’s decision and vacated the hotel on January 6. Grand Hotel moved in shortly thereafter.

Baghaloo said “Port Royal has been through many challenges. After many decades of failed developments of the hotel and the surrounding areas, we are pleased to play our role in the development of the historic town by facilitating this sale.”

“We hope that the new operators will make the necessary investments to transform the properties into First World standards befitting the beauty and historic significance of the town,” he said.