|By Karen Florin, The Day, New London, Conn.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 30, 2005 - MASHANTUCKET -- The Mashantucket Pequots announced Wednesday that they plan to use proceeds from the sale of their high-speed ferries to develop a beachfront resort and casino in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The tribe said in a prepared statement that it holds a majority share in a development company that owns a 600-acre beachfront parcel in St. Croix. The minority shareholder, William and Punch Partners, arranged for $3.9 million in financing to purchase the property a year ago, according to Internet reports.
Preliminary plans call for a beachfront hotel, marina and casino. Condominiums and a golf course also are being considered.
The Mashantuckets this week sold two of their high speed-ferries, Sassacus and Tatobam, to Shuntak Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong-based company that plans to use the vessels to transport passengers between Hong Kong and Macau. The sales represent the end of the tribe's venture into the ferry-building and navigation businesses and the beginning of a new overseas enterprise.
The tribe did not divulge the sale price of the ferries, which were loaded onto a freighter and shipped out of New London this week for transport to Hong Kong. The Mashantuckets also did not discuss the financial terms of the St. Croix Venture.
Their nine-member Tribal Business Advisory Board, which oversees enterprises off the reservation, negotiated the transactions.
"The tribal nation is delighted to take the proceeds of the ferries' sale and invest them in an exciting new opportunity to pursue what we do best: the development of a world-class destination resort," said Tribal Council Chairman Michael J. Thomas.
"St. Croix is a market that has exciting possibilities, and any development, like our other enterprises, should respect the natural beauty of its surroundings," Thomas said.
According to Internet reports, the property is largely unspoiled and offers stunning views of the Caribbean sea. It was the site of a sugar mill that was burned in 1878, marking the beginning of the labor movement in the Virgin Islands.
Chris Elliot and Kevin Rames, managing partners of William and Punch, said they were pleased with the opportunity the joint venture represents for the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Croix.
"This is the caliber development team that St. Croix deserves, and I am especially excited about the tribe's eco- and cultural sensitivity," Elliott commented.
The Mashantuckets have been striving to diversify beyond their Foxwoods Resort Casino. The tribe formed its Foxwoods Development Co. last year and is helping tribes in California, Arizona and Kansas with casino ventures and considering other projects throughout the country.
The Mashantuckets also own a pharmaceutical distribution company, several hotels in southeastern Connecticut and the new Lake of Isles Golf Course in North Stonington.
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Day, New London, Conn.
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