Saipan-based casino operator Imperial Pacific International Holdings is denying there’s trouble in paradise after appointing a new chief executive.
Last week, word spread that Imperial Pacific CEO Mark Brown (pictured) was no longer at the helm of the company, which operates the highly successful Best Sunshine Live ‘temporary’ casino and is preparing to open Phase 1 of its permanent venue, Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel Saipan, later this spring.
On Thursday, Brown contacted the Marianas Variety to set the record straight, saying “I did not resign. That’s incorrect. We are now structuring the company to be more efficient.” Brown’s CEO seat will be filled by Kwong Yiu Ling, Imperial Pacific’s current chief operating officer.
Brown said the company would soon be issuing a formal release announcing that he’d given up the CEO position to become chairman of Imperial Pacific’s board of directors. Brown said he’s been spending most of his time “on the road, with investment groups, promoting Saipan to investors” while Kwong “will be in charge of day-to-day operations in Saipan.”
Imperial Pacific had originally planned to open its permanent venue by Chinese New Year but announced on January 5 that the launch would now happen “in the first quarter of 2017.”
On January 11, Imperial Pacific alerted the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that construction costs related to the permanent casino’s soft opening would cost “approximately US$50m.” Imperial Pacific proposed issuing notes of “not less than US$60m in principal, which will provide sufficient funds for the aforesaid construction.”
The day Imperial Pacific announced its financing needs, Fitch Ratings analysts downgraded the company’s credit rating based on the “substantial” risk of the company defaulting on its loan obligations.
Imperial Pacific spent most of last year as the hot chick at the bar, with VIP gaming turnover numbers that beggared belief. But November brought reports that US financial watchdogs – Saipan is part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth – had taken an interest in Best Sunshine’s business.
Brown denied knowledge of any such investigation, but one month later a former VP of table games at the temporary casino filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in which he claimed the property had been advising gamblers how to structure transactions to avoid US federal reporting requirements. The company has rejected these allegations.