The statement is bereft of any details about a price tag for this deal, and appears to cool the controversy surrounding the Department of Public Lands decision to bid out the resort lands—which Best Sunshine has said it will compete for.
The Best Sunshine statement said the agreement was reached and signed by Mark A. Brown, Best Sunshine CEO, and Yoshihiro Kitami, Kan Pacific Saipan president. The agreement essentially provides that Kan Pacific will assign its remaining lease on the lot to the Saipan casino and will continue to operate the Mariana Resort & Spa “for at least a year,” the casino said.
Kan Pacific’s 40-year lease ends in April 2018.
“The parties intend to work together to support Best Sunshine’s efforts to obtain a new lease on the land,” the casino statement adds.
As for the resort’s staff, the casino said the parties have agreed to work together for “maximum employment opportunities for current employees.”
A call to Mariana Resort general manager Gloria Cavanagh yesterday to confirm the news was not immediately returned as of press time.
The administration of Gov. Eloy S. Inos also held off on any comments. “At this time, the administration declines to comment until we are furnished a copy of the agreement,” said press secretary Ivan Blanco yesterday.
The Best Sunshine statement said it is Kan Pacific’s intention to establish a new hotel on Saipan. The parties have discussed the possibility of the new hotel being on the same land “or some other suitable location,” the casino said.
“As a result of a decision to enter into discussions about our mutual interests and the interests of the CNMI community, Best Sunshine and Kan Pacific have reached an agreement to work together on a plan that would further our mutual interests and the interests of the Commonwealth,” the casino statement said.
The announcement comes nearly a month after Kan Pacific held a rally to garner public support for an extension of their lease. That rally drew hundreds and was led by Kan Pacific founder Nauki Kitami, his nephew and now Kan Pacific president Takami, and resort GM Cavanagh.
DPL’s announcement to open the competitive bidding for the Marpi land came a week after on Nov. 20.
Rep. Vincent Sablan (Ind-Saipan), author of a House resolution encouraging DPL to negotiate a new lease for Kan Pacific, said the news came as a surprise.
“I never left out the possibility of Kan Pacific selling, considering everything that they have been put through,” he said.
Sablan said the decision to seek competitive bids for the property “changed the entire tone of the situation.” “I hope that this instance does not affect the investments of the next hotels whose leases are coming up.”
Sablan said he has the resort staff in mind and hopes that the casino will stick to its word about providing “maximum employment opportunities” to current employees. “Otherwise, I hope that they will be able to find employment to continue to support their families.”
“It was truly an honor to stand side by side with Kan Pacific, its staff and the Kitami family. It’s not easy to say goodbye to 37 years of friendship and service to our island. We appreciate them for all they have done for our island through the years and, most importantly, for sticking with us through thick and thin. …We will miss Kan Pacific, and I’m sure it will never be the same for many of us, but we must also respect their decision,” he said.
The lands currently out for bid includes lots used for racecar tracks, mini golf courses, and the Marpi hotel itself, its cottages, villas, and maintenance and sports facilities, and other vacant lands held by Kan Pacific Saipan.
The total property amounts to 1.61 million square meters.
Best Sunshine officials have said that they plan to build world’s largest waterpark, 20 hotels, and a one-kilometer long shopping strip in the area.