30 May, 2009


Anguilla’s own pyramids of the sun and the moon. I hate to be writing this. It might appear that I am delighting in the misfortune that has overwhelmed Robert FX Sillerman. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sillerman’s dream playground of a Greg Norman golf course and luxury hotel project in Anguilla has turned to ashes. The bankers have run out of money. Credit Suisse has too much money loaned to golf course projects. They appear to have said they will not put one more dollar into Flag. The project has closed down. It now lies abandoned. The hotel buildings and the villas are incomplete. Exposed to the elements, they are beginning to deteriorate.

Watering of the golf course first stopped in January. It restarted in March for a few weeks. It has now been stopped for the past two months. This is the dry season. No rain is falling. The grass on the golf course is dying for lack of water.

The tragedy of our abandoned golf course and hotel project reminds me now of nothing more than the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacan. Any one who has ever visited Mexico City and who has not taken the tour of the pyramids has missed an experience that sears itself into the memory. I will never forget the feeling of exaltation I experienced as I first set eyes on those magnificent structures. The view from the tops of the two major pyramids is stunning. You are left in awe at the sheer extravagance and waste as you contemplate the amount of labour and treasure that must have gone into the construction.

Just a week ago, I was reading an article in the New York Times about a certain Bobby Ginn. His 1,900-acre project, called Bella Collina, was designed to hold 800 homes and a golf course. Today, only 48 houses dot the landscape, and just three are occupied. It is a ghost town. So is Tesoro. This is another golf resort opened by Mr Ginn near Port St Lucie. There just 150 houses sit on 900 waiting lots. A third project of his is the Conservatory in Palm Cost. It is even more barren. Only 5 of a total of 340 lots have been constructed. The banks are foreclosing. His properties are being sold off. Most of his projects were funded with loans organized by the same Credit Suisse.

Someone has now sent me the following photographs of the abandoned hotel and golf course at Flag in Anguilla. The resemblance to Teotihuacan is uncanny. Will the ruins last as long?

The fairways turning brown

The ponds drying up

Weeds growing in the sand traps

The greens turning brown

A small spot of green around one of the sprinklers

The river has run dry

Soon the forest will have reclaimed the ruins

Anguilla's very own pyramids?

These villas look almost complete

These villas look like they have a long way to go

The sense of desolation and abandonment is overwhelming

Even the heavy equipment appears to have bush growing up around it

Sillerman meant well for Anguilla. His vision, and the investment he made to back it up, helped pull Anguilla out of the barren years of the Hubert Hughes Administration. Does no one remember what it was like to be in business or to be looking for a job in Anguilla in the late 1980s?

If Sillerman’s money had been better managed by those in whose hands he placed it, no one would be pointing fingers at him now. He was badly served by his managers and his employees. He is taking the blame for everything. Even for not repatriating the Chinese. They worked for Ashtrom, not Sillerman. When Ashtrom posted cash deposits to guarantee their air fares, government spent it on foolishness. Now, when they are not fighting among themselves in their squalid quarters, the Chinese compete with Anguillians for scarce construction work.

So far, it is reported that US$750 million, three quarters of a billion dollars, has been invested in this project. Credit Suisse has refused to inject the remaining $200 million needed to complete the project. They say they have been burned by these expensive golf course projects. I am not surprised. Sillerman is blamed for not coming up with the money personally. Now, that is unfair.

Other than being too trusting, and not knowing how history has treated wealthy trusting investors in Anguilla, I do not know of anything that Sillerman has done wrong.

The real victims of this fiasco are Sillerman and the people of Anguilla. We are both the victims of fraud and mismanagement.

Related posts:

18 January 2009: Not Happening


  1. "Aspiring leader" Pam Webster was on The Mayor's Show this morning. Her pandering was disgusting. She called Yanchie and Smitty "leaders."

    She was asked what she would do about the Flag mess. She said government is very secretive. She would get the facts (she didn't say whether she'd then share them with us, The Working Class) and then she is certain she could sort the whole thing out.

    We are like ants, watching elephants fight. We have dreams of power in which we tell the elephants what to do and they say, "Yes, Massa."

    I'm not sure it's that easy.

  2. The story is often heard how Sillerman killed the Junks Hole proposal by threatening government that he would close down. It didn't happen that way.

    It was actually Credit Suisse who said Junks Hole would glut the market with golf club residences and condos and they would discontinue financing Sillerman if Government allowed Junks Hole to proceed before Sillerman was trying to market their units. Certain interested persons twisted this story around to blame Sillerman. Hubert jumped right on it, finding it necessary to educate us on Sillerman's alleged religion. Bunton outsourced the story to whoever wanted to tell it and it has become the accepted "truth."

    At the beginning of this project, Sillerman was ripped off by fraud and mismanagement. Government knew about it and did nothing because the miscreants were Anguillians. They not only forfeited their responsibility to a trusting investor, they forfeited the integrity they need, now that there is negotiating
    to be done.

    Sillerman is accused of getting a lot of concessions, profited from them and left us with the wreckage. This is the Percy Thomas Theory of Hotel Development.

    How this works remains unclear to me.

  3. Hubert's intervention suited his traditional story line that "the ANA boys" are controlled by, variously, evil outside interests or evil British.

  4. Great post Don. This kind of story isn't just reserved to your island however, as you point out with the Ginn developments. I think an interesting angle is as personal as it may seem when it happens in a small place like Anguilla, it really is just another pedestrian event in the global credit crisis. This kind of stuff is happening everywhere in the world - especially in resort markets. There are basically two ways this turns out for Anguilla - the property is razed, or eventually (and this could take years) someone with either enough of their own money or perhaps some credit (if the markets ever permits it again) comes in and is able to take over the whole thing for pennies on the dollar and finish it, which then allows them to operate at a profit. In a way it will be another bizzare subsidy by US and EU taxpayers who have already spent billions bailing out Credit Suisse and the like...

  5. I don't really think you should use the pyramids as an example of money badly spend. We went to Mexico for our honeymoon in 1980, and visited the pyramids. They are inspiring, and STILL STANDING. We can still visit and enjoy them.

    The latest cement monstrocities, like Mr Goldfinger's, will not inspire our descendents in 500 years time, even if they are still standing. They are ego trips of the architects.

    If another company came in, finished one or two of the buildings at the golf course, and did a bit of watering and weeding, all might not be lost. But the accountants rule.

  6. Excellent post, Don. I walked the site the other day. The golf course is now virtually unrecoverable (at any reasonable expense). Why they keep greens and fairways cut so short (high stress, making it subject to disease and dehydration) when it's not being used is just one more small example of how this whole process was run. We all knew this was finished months ago when they were selling everything off to local contractors.

    Sillerman's not "the bad man," but someone's to blame for hiring the worst management team in history. THEY blew it for all of us.

  7. Don,

    Is Viceroy next?

  8. It appears that Viceroy is safe. Instead of just giving them the money and letting them waste it like Credit Suisse did at Flag, Citibank has sent in a multitude of bean counters to watch over and approve every dollar that's spent.

    In an excess of cooperation, it appears that the Minister of Labour has agreed to approve 180 permits for industrious Filipinos.

    So no, I don't think Viceroy is next.

  9. So...it is GOOD that our Minister of Labour is expediting the importation of foreign labour to take jobs that should possibly go to those already on the island that might want work?

  10. So sad the failure of RX Sillerman, his dreams and money gone, enough said about his and Flag's demise. Anguilla needs to be proactive to prevent his failure from becoming its own, now and in the future. The fear of loss of revenue in 2001 has created many of the problems we now have with the golf course, let us not compound these with the disaster of 2009. We need an open, transparent and public approved solution, not a closed, paternalistic, government devised one.

    Anguilla needs to press the courts, based on the debts to local businesses, creditors and investors of residences in this development, for a quick decision to force a windup of the development. This is the mandate to government: get immediate action rather than have the dissolution take 10 years or more to occur--government pressure can force the courts to act now, not like in St. Martin where the investors have yet to see action since the hurricane of 1995. Then the purchasers of the villas can spend their money to finish off the individual buildings, thus avoiding the "ruin" to crumble from further neglect. Through a court enforced dissolution, the Flag charter may be collapsed permitting new ideas and action to emerge for the public lands which the golf course is built upon. Are there no civic leaders, lawyers with commercial skills willing to perform "pro bono" work for the community to help salvage this ruin.

    In the short term, the golf course needs to be operated by anyone having skill, whether it be a combination of government, hotels, and the Anguilla Golf Association. A high end foreign manager is not necessary. Grow our own talent to run the course, there is plenty here. The course needs water, local manpower and be kept open even as a 9 hole event. Watered enough to keep it alive. Now is not the time for perfection but for sustenance. Over time, Anguilla will find a way to make this into a fabulous course, but to give up and let it die is a terrible loss to the island and the tourism draw that Anguilla needs badly. Inexpensive well water needs to be used for the grounds, not desal. The local aquifer is too poluted for human consumption but is good for plants. Aquifer water not used only flows back into the ocean, use it or loose it.

    The design of the course was "over the top", not efficient or logical, perhaps there was another game plan we are not privy to. There needs to be a better land development plan for the course, with the view to add more buildings for rent and sale, to earn monies for the events sucess. Perhaps an open competition for plans to save the golf course would ensure honest participation and avoid another government boondogle.

    Temenos was a poor name for the island's public golf course. I suggest we rebrand it "Phoenix".

  11. June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Media baron Robert F.X. Sillerman had a great run until he tried to break into real estate --



    Viceroy is owned by Brad Korzen (Kor Hotels) - smart guy from California - he sold half his company to a Mid-East company last year.



    Also from the earlier story these stories about Mr. Sillerman:

    Bloomberg May 23- The bank, Switzerland’s second-largest, alleges that Sillerman has failed to pay the outstanding balance due under a credit agreement with Flag Luxury Properties LLC, in Anguilla, British West Indies, and that Sillerman has defaulted on a series of payments due since April 2008.


  12. When I first came to Anguilla in the mid nineties I had a friend who rented a two bedroom half-duplex in Old Ta. He used to joke about having a million-dollar view for 400 bucks a month.

    Then the dot-com bubble happened, and after that the sub-prime bubble. We came back for the next three or four years and then stopped coming here for a while. We returned in 2006 to Anguilla's very own real estate bubble and stories about outrageous prices at Temenos and elsewhere.

    I then joked that Anguilla was a place where one actually *could* purchase a million-dollar view -- for ten million dollars.

    The mixed metaphor is on the other foot, now, apparently.

    There used to be something called the Greater Fool theory of Caribbean real estate (or hotelliery, or tourist attractions, or whatever...). Apparently there *is* such a thing as a Greatest Fool after all, and he, to lift heavily from Walt Kelly, is us...

  13. Viceroy has ripped off a lot of contractors and service providers and treats their staff like crap. in return the staff rips stuff off from the storerooms and treats the guests with careless attitudes and disdain then the managers post all of this phony BS on the travel websites trying to do damage control. B. Korzen the owner CEO is a napoleonic control freak that is nothing but a fraud and out of touch. him and Alex Samek his stooge. I hear rhey will close for the summer???


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