So on Monday, we made a tiny comment in which we commended the Westin for maintaining its property unlike Caneel Bay. Well that comment triggered some emotions over on our Facebook page, and we were accused of “not liking” Caneel. That is untrue. I actually loved Caneel Bay prior to September 6th. I loved strolling its beautiful grounds and relaxing on its beautiful beaches. I loved having lunch with Jackie and the bartenders at the beach bar while enjoying the picturesque views over Caneel Bay. I loved chatting with the security guards and shopping in Caneel’s gift shop. And I especially enjoyed having a sunset cocktail in the upstairs lounge before heading over to ZoZo’s where I consistently received remarkable service and stellar meals. What I do not love is the recent behavior of CBI Acquisitions, the investment firm that currently oversees Caneel Bay. And I’m not the only one.
So today, I am going to cite the Virgin Islands Daily News, a well respected and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper here in the US Virgin Islands. (As you all know, I am a blog, not a newspaper. I did the “real news” thing years ago. I won some awards and then realized that newspaper life was not for me. And so here I am now, blogging in the Caribbean. And I could not be happier.)
On April 30th, the Virgin Islands Daily News asked CBI Acquisitions/Caneel to answer 12 very important questions. CBI Acquisitions/Caneel ignored the request. On May 14th, they again publicly asked the same 12 questions. And again, CBI Acquisitions/Caneel ignored the request. So today, more than three weeks later, let’s ask CBI Acquisitions/Caneel one more time to answer these very important questions.
Here is what the Virgin Islands Daily News wrote on May 14th:
Exactly 14 days ago on these pages, we listed 12 questions we believe CBI Acquisitions LLC must answer before any further consideration should be given to Delegate Stacey Plaskett’s bill granting CBI the right to operate Caneel Bay Resort for another 60 years.
We repeat these questions:
1. Why is CBI not required to pay a minimum annual rent under the terms of Plaskett’s bill?
2. How many St. Johnians actually work at Caneel Bay?
3. Why does Plaskett’s bill contain no deadline for reopening Caneel Bay and no penalties for failing to meet that deadline?
4. What experience does CBI have in developing and constructing resort properties?
5. Does Stoneleigh/CBI have the financial resources to develop and rebuild Caneel Bay?
6. Why doesn’t Plaskett’s bill contain safeguards to prevent CBI from “flipping” the proposed RUE extension — for a multimillion-dollar profit — to a major hotel developer such as Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton/Marriott or Rosewood?
7. How much in insurance payouts has CBI already received and how much more does it expect to receive?
8. What are the sources of CBI’s estimate of $100 million to rebuild Caneel Bay and of its professed need for a 60-year extension of the RUE?
9. Do we really want to rush to judgment on a bill that could impact $9.6 billion of economic activity for the territory over the next 60 years?
10. Was the $330,000 CBI spent on lobbying between April 20, 2017, and Jan. 22, 2018, to extend the RUE for Caneel Bay? If not, what was it spent for?
11. How much money has CBI paid to the Government of the Virgin Islands in taxes, fees or for any other reason since taking over Caneel Bay Resort in 2004?
12. How much money has CBI spent to provide food, clothing, shelter or other assistance to its St. John employees since the twin hurricanes hit in September 2017?
Exactly 12 days ago, we urged Delegate Plaskett and Mr. Gary Engle, CBI’s majority owner and managing member, to address each of these questions, preferably at a public meeting on St. John.
To date, neither Plaskett nor Engle has addressed these questions, nor have they scheduled a public meeting to do so.
So today, we join our friends over at the Virgin Islands Daily News in asking CBI Acquisitions/Caneel to publicly answer all of these questions. The ball is in your court Mr. Engle…