Melia Braco GM quits
Dimitris Kosvogiannis has now quit as general manager of Melia Braco Village resort, over what sources in the know say were irreconcilable differences with the hotel management company over what it would take for the resort to turn a profit.
The all-inclusive hotel is owned by the National Insurance Fund, NIF, the agency overseeing the investment of public pension funds.
Neither NIF and its oversight ministry nor Melia Hotels International spoke to the circumstances of Kosvogiannis' departure and his successor, but calls placed with the resort evinced information that the hotel was now being managed by a Jorge MartinÈz. Efforts to speak with MartinÈz were unsuccessful, but it's understood that he took over as GM on June 7, a week after Kosvogiannis officially quit the job.
On Monday, Kosvogiannis confirmed that he tendered his resignation at the end of May but declined to state the reason, saying he was bound by confidentiality clauses in his employment agreement.
Melia Jamaica Braco Village is the NIF's most valuable property in a real estate portfolio valued at around $12 billion in 2017. It is managed and marketed by Melia Hotels, a Spanish chain contracted by the NIF, through the NIF Resort Management Company Limited, to run it.
Kosvogiannis was hired to run the hotel in 2015 amid a renovation project undertaken by NIF. It's understood that while Melia recruited Kosvogiannis for the job, he was directly employed and paid by NIF.
The 232-room property which opened for business in December 2015 has been the subject of controversy in recent times, with the board declining to discuss its financial health since the property opened for business in December 2015, and what its performance means for the retention of the current management company.
The NIF itself has been in flux, and under scrutiny for its investment decisions. Last September, the Ministry of Labour replaced senior investment manager in charge of the NIF Audrey Deer-Williams, with Dione Jennings, whose substantive post was chief technical director. The two women effectively switched roles.
As NIF head, Jennings would have had oversight of the resort. However, that is no longer the case, it emerged this week.
"Matters relating to Melia are no longer within my remit. You can speak to the permanent secretary. She is the owner's representative," said Jennings on Monday, while redirecting requests for comment on Melia Braco to Permanent Secretary Collette Roberts-Risden.
Roberts-Risden, asserting that it was Melia Hotel's responsibility to replace the general manager, said any updates on Braco would have to come from the management company. The Spanish company is yet to respond.
The NIF earlier this year was the subject of two special investigations concluded by the auditor general, one of which said the fund's investments were being mishandled. In the main, the report published in March noted that "whereas NIF investment policy established thresholds for the approval of investments by the National Insurance Advisory Board, the Minister of Finance and the Cabinet, there were transactions that breached the guidelines regarding approval levels as well as created a conflict of interest".
Preliminary financial information for the all-inclusive resort previously seen by the Financial Gleaner indicated that amid low occupancy levels, the hotel made pre-tax losses of US$5.05 million in 2016, which was said to be the first full year of operation under Melia Hotels International. Neither NIF nor Melia commented at the time on whether the hotel's audited results bore out those numbers, nor on the financial performance of resort since then.
Kosvogiannis, who ran the Palladium hotel in Hanover as country manager for the Jamaican operations of the Palladium Hotel group prior to joining Melia Braco, declined to comment on his next career move.