Janet Silvera, Gleaner Writer
Lee Issa (left), chairman of Couples Resorts, shakes hands with Michael Bernard, chief executive officer of Carreras Group Limited, after the signing of the takeover deal by Couples Resorts of Sans Souci.
THE HOUSE of Issa has dashed the hopes of several stakeholders in the tourism industry by successfully purchasing the luxury Sans Souci Hotel and Spa in Prospect, St. Mary.
Shaw Park Hotel's Ernie Smatt, Elegant Resorts International's Heinz Simonistch, National Commercial Bank's Michael Lee Chin and Pan Caribbean, PRS Consulting - representatives of a number of Spanish hotels, Starwood Resorts and Hard Rock International, were reportedly vying to take over the resort.
But after months of jockeying, Carreras Group Limited announced yesterday that the Lee Issa-led team had bought the property and will assume control of the resort on Sunday, September 11. The property was sold for US$18.5 million (J$1.15 billion)
Couples will add the resort to its existing trio of high-end all-inclusive properties: Couples Swept Away, Couples Negril and Couples Ocho Rios. Sans Souci will be rebranded as Couples Sans Souci.
The property is valued at between US$15 and US$18 million (J$713 million).
"Sans Souci is the perfect fit for our brand, it has found its rightful place and is staying with a locally owned company," said Lee Issa, chairman of Couples Resorts and its parent company, the House of Issa.
He said the AAA Four Diamond resort will bring a lot to the table. "We now have a collection of four refined all-inclusive resorts, each one unique in its own way."
THE FUTURE OF THE EXISTING STAFF
According to Glenn Lawrence, chief financial officer of the House of Issa, one of the key arrangements in the agreement concerned the future of the existing staff. "Carreras will make all the staff positions redundant, and make all relevant payments under the law," he confirmed.
There are currently 290 persons employed to the resort.
He stated that Couples will offer temporary contracts to all current staff members, during which their individual performances will be assessed and decisions regarding their future employment made thereafter.
Mr. Lawrence noted that "the Sans Souci staff came highly recommended by Carreras, as is evidenced by their frequent awards from the international travel trade."
Originally opened in the early 1950s and then re-built in the 1970s, Sans Souci (French for "without a care") carries 148 ocean-facing luxury suites nestled into a 35-acre hillside garden.
Named among the 'Caribbean's Top Ten' resorts by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, Sans Souci has long been known for its physical beauty and romantic setting, making it popular with honeymooners. Sans Souci will follow the blueprint of the other Couples Resorts, offering a "refined version" of the all-inclusive concept, according to Lee Issa.