Friday morning Jake, Mindy, Jason, Lisa, Lorrie, Jenny, Ching Lee, Marcy, Vicky and I and two restless little boys along with six of my security flew in two G5s to Freeport Airport on the Grand Bahamas Island. We had decided that all the company executives would not fly on the same plane until we were sure our terrorist problem was over.
I had called and talked to Ambassador Murray Carr from the Bahamas embassy yesterday when I had a few minutes of free time. The talk ended up lasting an hour. He knew who I was as soon as he heard my name; I never had to say more than my name to anyone official in Washington anymore.
I explained that I was going to his home country, that I needed my bodyguards and that I as well as my family would be carrying personal weapons. After all of the attempts on my life and the fact that there was still a bounty on my life, I made it a requirement.
I also explained that the reason for the trip was to look at a secluded piece of property for a family getaway. It needed to be secluded enough that it would be nearly impossible for easy media access or anyone else that I did not want there.
I asked if there was a way to fast track my group’s way through customs and if there was a way to do so or eliminate the customs stop all together. Or, was there was a frequent visitors arrangement because we intended to make a lot of visits in the future if the deal went through?
“Yes there are provisions and I am sure the home office will work out something with the weapons issue. We do not get many officials that are interested in property who have needs as you do. When you get to Freeport customs and immigration, ask for Jeffery Harts. He is the manager there. I will call him and explain things,” Ambassador Carr replied.
“May I ask where the property is you are interested in?” he asked.
“East Water Cay,” I replied.
“Oh I know of the place – they have some great bone fishing and snorkeling there. I have it in my mind that the lots are small there,” he said.
“I’m not interested in the lots – not enough security or privacy – I’m looking at all twelve hundred and ninety acres. The current owner had gotten fed up with the hassle or couldn’t make enough off his commercial venture plans to make a go of it. I’m not really interested in it for the commercial possibilities, just for family, friends and as a perk for the employee package,” I said.
East Water Cay was on the market – all twelve hundred and ninety acres of it minus a couple of lots sold when the owners were trying to find a way to generate money. Other lots had been laid out and infrastructure installed. 11 had been sold but only three houses built.
The island had miles of white sandy beaches, clear blue water, lagoons and coral reefs for snorkeling, several boat docks, a pool, cottages plus several big dining halls and dozens of boats for shallow water that were designed exclusively for the best snorkeling adventures and fishing. There was a deep-water dock that could handle yachts up to 65 feet long.
Lorrie could add this place to the vacation rentals package to offset some of the maintenance cost. The people that could afford to spend time there were an elite group that we could do all kinds of checks on and would not balk at the price for this kind of getaway. The current week’s price for the deluxe package was $8000 a week and that did not include meals, all the extras or travel.
We could block out the weeks that the girls and I wanted. Weekends would be different; I could just reserve one of the residences to remain empty for our use.
There was a 40 by 4300-foot gravel runway that would need widening, and have to be paved with a few hundred feet added to it to land our jets there. It was a thousand air miles from Morton and 130 miles from Florida. If we had to we could land at Miami and helicopter to the Cay. There was even an arrangement for customs to meet large groups at a small building near the runway for an expensive fee.
In the customs building I walked up to an officer, and as I displayed my federal badge asked for Jeffery Harts.
“I’m Jeffery Harts, Ambassador Carr and I talked again this morning. Welcome to the Bahamas. I understand you are interested in East Water Cay. That is a nice piece of property. Have you contacted the Cay of your arrival?” he asked.
“Yes, they are picking my group up in 20 minutes,” I replied.
“Good; let’s go to my office. I have some forms to fill out about your weapons and to stamp your passports. Ambassador Carr suggested that I put you in contact with an attorney who specialized in international transactions. He can eliminate much of the red tape you would have to go through.”
“I took the liberty of making a preliminary call to see if he would be available to meet you today and if you like, he can meet you later today over at the Cay. He spends a lot of time in Washington and is quite impressed with your work,” Jeffery added.
“That would great if you would do that,” Jenny said before I could answer.
We had finished the conversation when a couple of gentlemen walked up,” Ambassador Jones, I am David Holmes and this is Frank Bounds, we are the transportation specialists from the East Water Cay Lodge. We are to carry you to meet Tammy Tittles; she is the manager,” they said.
It was a fifty- minute ride then a ten -minute boat ride to the Cay across clear blue waters. The girls were already shedding the heaver clothes we were wearing; the sun and heat felt good. It was eighty degrees; it had been 40, overcast and windy when we left Morton.
After pleasantries and introductions Tammy was all business; we met her in the club house office. First were the books for the last three years with all the fishing party bookings and other paying visitors. I noticed that the bookings fell each year and I was sure that Marcy did as well. As they put prices up, vacationers went down. Booking bone fishing parties was not the reason I was here anyhow.
There were boat rentals, cottage rentals and other fees that went into the books. There were package deals that included snorkeling and fishing classes, as well as guided trips for both.
Then there was the information on the sale of several lots and a couple that had houses built on them. If we could buy them back we would.
The next step was to get everyone in my party into accommodations for the weekend. The girls and I chose one townhouse with three bedrooms; it was perfect for us right on the beach. Mom, Dad, Jake and Mindy took a three-bedroom cottage and my security team took another.
Then we began the grand tour, we walked the beach in shorts looking at beach front cottages, the marina, boat docks, the lots that had been sold and the houses that had been built. Then it was on to the pool and recreation area. Golfers would be disappointed. There was only a tee area to hit the balls out to a marker in the lagoon; no course. Part of snorkel training was to retrieve the balls and get a discount on the training.
The next part of the tour was on ATVs. We checked out the gravel runway that was not good for jets or helicopters. Gravel is murder on jet engines and rotor blades; it would have to paved. In my opinion, that would be a monumental task. Jake had a different opinion and an option on that. But then, who wanted jet noise anyhow at a place like this?
We toured the maintenance areas next. Even though there was a power cable to the big island, there was a generator house with several big Caterpillar stand-by generators. There was a sewage treatment plant and a desalination plant. There were ATVs and maintenance equipment, including a crane and a small grader that I was sure was to maintain the narrow levees and dozens of boats and other equipment that went with the deal.
Back at the clubhouse we went over the employee list, their responsibilities, salaries and benefits. I was shocked at how low the base pay was; tips were to make up a large part of their pay. Tammy estimated that tips added fifteen thousand dollars to their income. Even with the tips it was still half of the base pay all JBG employees started at.
The tip thing would have to be changed. It made no sense for the staff to expect tips from my family, body guards and other JBG special guest when we owned the place and paid a base salary.
I would be ashamed to offer them the base salary they were getting with expectations that tips would make up the difference to have a good wage in an area with seasonal highs and lows. I wanted the best service without the amount of a tip affecting it.
We had finished the tour and were back at the club house when Tug Parsons arrived. He was the attorney for the international purchases that Jeffery had recommended.
Tug agreed to handle the transactions for us if we made the deal. In a conference call to the owners – who were in Miami – the deal was made. The bank holding their mortgage was the National Bank of Bahamas. They would be here before the bank closed.
They wanted the sale closed as soon as possible, as other investments were on hold and in a critical state. Even with them coming today to start the process, it would still take a month to close for us to have true ownership and a deed.
To me they wanted to stop the financial drain, as by Marcy’s estimate the island would have turned a profit without the mortgage cost; with it they were losing $150,000 a month and had been for the last three years. The mortgage was forty million. They had put ten million of their own money into the project and were making money the first few years.
By 1600 we were done with the letters of intent, transfer of ownership rights, bill of sale and a stack of other paperwork and contract defining that they were to pay property taxes for the year to date, to be withheld from the settlement.
At the National Bank of the Bahamas we paid off the mortgage and received a copy of the deed with the lien. Tug would do the legwork to get a clear deed. They were given a five million payment today, five million went into an escrow account that Tug and Marcy would administrate. They were not to get final payment until all clear deeds and titles to the equipment were in Tug’s hands.
We were done just in time to spend a couple hours on the beach and then a meal in the club house with the other fishing party guests who were here.
The whisper campaign among the employees had started. Tomorrow after the breakfast we would call them all together and sort things out for them.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.