Big Money For Cable Beach




Prime Minister Perry Christie is expected to spend some time in Monterrey, Mexico negotiating for the redevelopment of the Cable Beach Strip, while attending a special Summit of the Americas.


Government officials, including the prime minister, have recently been pointing to the urgent need to improve conditions at properties on Cable Beach.


Mr. Christie announced recently that he is talking to an investor interested in pumping $1 billion into Cable Beach.


The government and the investor are reportedly in the final stages of negotiations and a heads of agreement was being prepared for signature for a development along the Strip.


Meanwhile, saying that he has no immediate plans to sell his resort, owner of the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino Phil Ruffin said Monday that he is taking out a new loan on the property to carry out much needed upgrades.


Mr. Ruffin, in an interview with the Bahama Journal from Wichita, Kansas, said he is aware that the Cable Beach Strip needs to be revitalized and refinancing would help his company secure the cash it needs for the improvements to take place.


"It will give us $25 million in surplus cash to upgrade the property," he said.


The Wyndham is in deep debt and in an apparent bid to get value on his property; Mr. Ruffin wants to invest millions of dollars into it.


Some sources insist the government is in the process of forcing Mr. Ruffin out and he is said to be looking for the best deal to get out.


Mr. Ruffin, one of the richest people in America with an estimated net worth of $750 million, said the new loan should be in place by the end of the month.


His hotel continues to face crushing competition from the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, owned by hotel mogul, Sol Kerzner.


Mr. Ruffin said he is aware of such competition and that business has been "horrible" over the last couple years.


Meanwhile, Atlantis, which is now undergoing a $600 million expansion, has been reporting record profits.


Mr. Ruffin told the Journal that things are finally beginning to pick up.


"It's coming back," Mr. Ruffin said.  "I think sales are up 32 points in 2004 and the bookings look good. That's when you start doing things."


Speculation has been rife about the planned sale of the Wyndham, but Mr. Ruffin said no contracts to that effect have been signed.


"We have a couple of people kicking the tires, different companies," he said. "But at this time there is no formal offer."


But Mr. Ruffin added, "We're always open to the sale of any of our assets if the price is right."


He also responded to an exclusive report in the Bahama Journal several months ago revealing that his hotel owes the government more than $10 million in casino taxes.


When asked when he intended to pay, Mr. Ruffin said he didn't think that was a relevant question to be asked of him.


But he did say, "It'll be corrected."


Mr. Ruffin then added, "We paid full taxes for 10 years, while Atlantis paid half. They had a significant advantage over us."


The Ruffin name is also a big name in gaming circles in Las Vegas. He told a local paper there that he favours the argument that gaming has carried the bulk of the tax load for too long.


Mr. Ruffin also reportedly owes the Bahamas Electricity Corporation millions of dollars in unpaid bills.