As part of the initiatives undertaken by the Gaston Browne Administration to make Barbuda, the other half of the Antigua and Barbuda twin island-nation a key economic contributor, Prime Minister Gaston Browne signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) covering the $250 million Barbuda hotel joint venture project of international actor Robert de Niro and Australian casino magnate James Packer.
The signing of the MOA included De Niro’s appointment as “Special Economic Envoy of Antigua and Barbuda.”
The MOA signing and the actor’s appointment took place a week after the Prime Minister announced that the government had worked out a deal with De Niro and Packer, to undertake the renovation of Barbuda’s K Club, a defunct resort owned by Mariuccia Mandelli, a famous Italian designer.
The latter holds a lease contract for a 99-year term, covering the 200-acre Barbuda property, which Ms. Mandelli had reportedly refused to give up for decades, despite the business’ defunct status for the past 10 years.
Rather than proceed with a compulsory buy-back of the property, the Browne administration announced that they had worked out a great scheme with Mr. De Niro and Mr. Packer. They will jointly undertake a high-end renovation project to breathe new life into the dormant K Club under the Paradise Found brand.
The announcement, however, did not mention if Ms. Mandelli agreed to a sale of the K Club, but the Parliamentary Representative for Barbuda stated that the previous owners of K Club would be pleased to know that Mr. De Niro will take over to renovate and expand the hotel business under the “Paradise Found” brand.
The expansion plans did not mention a casino as part of the proposed exclusive 5-star Barbuda hotel-resort complex. Still, with James Packer as a co-investor and that De Niro reportedly lent a hand in securing approval for the establishment of the Paradise Walker Hill Casino in Seoul, Korea, the addition of a casino is a likely possibility.
The Prime Minister disclosed that the De Niro-Packer project has stirred the interests of other investors, for which the involvement of the two internationally prominent figures and their proven record as a team has given recognition to Barbuda as an exceptional proposition for investment.
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister’s appointment of Mr. De Niro as special ambassador is in recognition of the actor’s qualities not only as an investor, but also as a friend of Antigua and Barbuda for being a regular patron of the twin nation’s highly prestigious Jumby Bay Resort. Not many are aware that the 71-year old actor has made a name for himself not only in show business but also outside of the movie industry.
He has achieved success in numerous ventures in the hotel and restaurant business, which includes the Nobu Hotel brand and the Locanda Verde Restaurant at the Greenwich Hotel.
The De Niro-Packer team up is not new either, since the actor’s Nobu Hotel and restaurant chain will have its first Asian branch in the Philippines as part of Packer’s Melco Crown integrated resort project, the “City of Dreams Manila.” The award-winning Hollywood actor was also one of the A-lister celebrities engaged by Packer’s Ratpac Entertainment, to star in a Melco Crown promotional short movie for the grand opening of Studio City in Macau, the gambling Mecca of Asia.
The Honorable Prime Minister believes that Mr. De Niro’s renowned status will attract other American celebrities to Antigua and Barbuda.