WE have been here before.
The news that Brookfield Asset Management is seemingly looking at options for a sale of the Atlantis property is of course major news for the country – given the status of Atlantis as an employer and how many people visit the country to stay there.
In truth, the report is an extension of what has gone before.
Brookfield has previously tried to sell the resort – and three years ago, in February 2020, it took the property off the market, choosing instead to begin a three-year investment strategy despite receiving multiple offers.
With those three years now up, and $100m in renovations spent, back on the market it goes – although how much it was ever truly off the market is open to question.
Reported investors back then included the likes of a potential deal backed by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. Another interested party was represented by former Prime Minister Perry Christie, thought to be perhaps Phil Ruffin, who owned the former Wyndham resort and Crystal Palace casino before selling them to Sarkis Izmirlian in 2006 for the Baha Mar project. Mr Izmirlian himself might consider there to be unfinished business in The Bahamas.
Then there are the owners of the Atlantis Resorts brand around the world, a subsidiary of Kerzner International.
Could some of these names be tempted back into the field?
It is surely no coincidence that the stories of Atlantis being back on the market also come as the resort announces it is headed for its best year ever.
Whether leading the way in the tourism boom after the lifting of pandemic restrictions or riding the surge, Atlantis has had an excellent year.
If ever there was a time to put it back on the market, this would be it.
Of course, there will be nervousness. Certainty is a strong foundation stone when planning for the future. With it being unknown who the owners of Atlantis might be this time next year, or the year after that, it can perhaps make it harder to commit to the future for some developments. That might affect the stride of government, and it might certainly unsettle employees who will wonder who will come next and what their plans will be.
We have seen with the sale of the Grand Lucayan that matters can become long drawn-out – and some plans go awry or investors back away.
Atlantis is a cornerstone of our tourism market, and it is in the interests of all concerned that any proposed sale goes through smoothly – and to the right buyer.
Atlantis does need continued development – every resort does, to keep pace let alone to lead the way.
The right buyer will be one that not only wants to take on Atlantis as it is now, but who has plans for the future to make it an irresistible destination.
Lips are tight at Atlantis and Brookfield regarding talks of a sale for now – but we must all hope that whatever the process is, it has the right outcome.
Atlantis has been positive for our nation – as an attraction to bring visitors and income into our country, and as an employer for many Bahamians.
We must hope that its new owner is the right one, and that they help Atlantis to continue to rise.