(CMR) Christopher Kirkconnell, VP Operations of Kirk Freeport Ltd., has confirmed with Cayman Marl Road that there have never been any formal or informal discussions with Dart Realty about the acquisition of any of its duty free retail stores.
Speculation was at a fever pitch earlier today after The New York Times featured “secretive investor Kenneth Dart” in an article questioning his acquisition of property in the Cayman Islands.
The article quickly made the rounds in the Cayman Islands with a number of persons commenting that Dart wanted to acquire additional property on the waterfront – owned by the Kirkconnell family.
The speculation, which the Kirkconnells believe is being pushed by anti-port supporters, actually isn’t new but has gained significant traction today, particularly on social media platforms. One person pointed out that in an interview on September 12 during the Radio Cayman Talk Today program, guest Johann Moxam alluded to the potential acquisition of Kirk Freeport when he said:
I understand why certain George Town retail merchants are desperate for more people. They figure more footfall equals more business … I keep talking about the recipients and beneficiaries of government-sponsored corporate welfare.
Those are the people that have a vested interest in ensuring this project gets done so that if they are contemplating selling their business onto someone else the idea is to grow the revenue. There is nothing wrong with that sort of capitalism and open market … you grow your business to sell your business. But the problem is four, five, six George Town retail merchants cannot drive government policy to the disadvantage of the rest of the majority at a time when Cayman has other priorities.
He later states that:
The country has other priorities. If we are prepared to look out for the interest of four, five, six George Town Retail merchants what happens to the rest of us who own businesses …
The allegation is that Moxam was referring to Kirk Freeport and other large retailers in town who would directly benefit from the building of the cruise berthing facility. They further alleged that his comments about improving their financial position to make a sale more profitable was directed at the 100% owned Caymanian business.
Critics say that there is an assumption that Moxam was speaking about them because as the old Caribbean saying goes “who the cap fit.”. One anti-port supporter shared:
“For the same of argument, have you ever heard of a company that is willing to tell you they are in negotiations for the possible sale of their company? At that stage, they would have signed an non-disclosure agreement that would not permit them to divulge such high-level sensitive negotiations.”
The other existing large duty-free retailer in George Town is actually Dart who has a controlling interest in Island Companies; a direct competitor of Kirk Freeport.
All of this as both sides of the debate have taken off the gloves and pushed their reasons for or against the port. Kirk Freeport operates 20 stores across the island.
The New York Times article had some 180 comments. For his part, Dart appears unconcerned about the populous view that he is trying to acquire the entire island. He recently purchased several hotels to add to his portfolio.
Dart also owns the Flagship Building, Island Plaza, Regatta Office Park, and Camana Bay. On the hospitality side he also owns, Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Paradise Villas, and another unnamed future five-start property that will have 225 guest rooms, 80 residences, and 10 ocean view villas.
According to their website, Dart Real Estate also develops, markets and sells both land and homes and select third-party listings via Provenance Properties the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in the Cayman Islands and a member of the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association (CIREBA).