Timeshare owners learn of new deal
By LEDEDRA MARCHE
Senior FN Reporter
After an almost two-year freeze on their points, timeshare owners at the Crowne Plaza Golf Resort and Casino at the Royal Oasis are learning of a deal that could break the ice and lure them back to the distressed property.
Lehman Brothers, the financiers of the resort, signed a contract last Monday with World Investments Holdings (WIH) for the purchase of the resort which has been closed since 2004.
The closure wiped out 965 rooms in the towers and country club from the island's inventory, shut down the casino, both golf courses and 98 timeshare units and pushed some 1,300 employees into the unemployment pool.
The move came days after Hurricane Frances in September 2004. The owners claimed the property sustained extensive damages.
With an inoperable property in Grand Bahama, timeshare owners say they were unable to vacation anywhere else because their points had been frozen.
But Prime Minister Perry Christie told The Freeport News during his last visit here some weeks ago that the owners had made provisions in the sale to include the timeshare owners.
Back then, there were two players WIH, Florida-based group, and Harcourt Developments, a property construction and management company based in Dublin, Ireland bidding on the property.
In fact, the Prime Minister revealed that Lehman Brothers had taken all of the necessary steps to ensure that the purchasing group has timesharing expertise and were "timesharing internationally respected participants."
"I am hoping that when the purchasers are selected, that we are able to announce to the Bahamian people what in fact is intended and how they will go about assuring the timeshare owners that their future is on solid ground," he said.
Now that a deal has been signed, timeshare owners are optimistic, but still have more questions than answers.
Chuck and Darlene Barber of Virginia had paid for their timeshare in full, unlike several other owners who had financed.
"We paid cash up front. All our money is already in the door," he said yesterday, pointing out that they have lost all use of their timeshare for nearly two years.
Now what the sale means for the timeshare owners he says, depends on how they are figured into the resort equation in the way forward.
But timeshare owners at Royal Oasis had filed a class action suit against the former resort owner in a Florida Federal Court and say they have not heard from the resort since November 2004.
Fed up after their attempts to reach the resort by phone, e-mails and letters have gone unanswered, the suit names Sunrise Properties Limited, Driftwood Freeport Limited and Driftwood Hospitality Management, LLC. as the defendants.
They are suing for breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment and declaration of their ownership rights and interests in their timeshare units.
The Barbers are a part of the action and maintain the lawsuit and the sale of the resort are two independent items.
As for the suit, everything is full speed ahead.
"It's only fair. If we lost three years, are they going to give us three years back," another owner says. "They breached the contract. If any timeshare owner did, we would get a letter to say that we would get nothing.
"People have lost out on a lot of money. I'm glad that it has been sold, at least things are moving."
He questions when will they be able to use their points, what their status will be when the resort reopens, would they have to sign new contracts and whether it means that the points will be unfrozen now that the deal is signed.
What's even more frustrating, the owner points out, is that people are still paying maintenance fees on their timeshare for fear they will lose their points.
"I'm hoping that they finish that resort and they really get it up in the eight months they say because I'm dying to get back at that hotel because it could really be a good thing.
"If they do get it fixed up its really going to work out for everyone in the end," he said.
© 2006 The Freeport News