Imperial Pacific International (IPI), the company behind the Imperial Palace resort on Saipan, is back in the news and the revolving door on the top floor of the company continues to spin. It apparently cannot keep a good chairman on board, as it has been through more than a half dozen in less than two years. Now, in a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the company has announced that Cui Li Jie is stepping in to fill the role; for how long is anyone’s guess.
Cui is replacing Xia Yuki Yu, whose sudden resignation left the company without anyone at the helm. Cui has been an executive director for IPI since May of 2017. She reportedly has involvement in real estate and building material trading, as well as “experience in investment.” She is also the sole director of – as well as shareholder of – Inventive Star Lt., which owns over 90 billion shares in IPI.
It’s been a crazy ride for anyone willing to jump on the back of the IPI horse. Marco Teng stepped down as chairman of the company last August, after only being on the job for eight months, and was replaced by Henry Cheang. Cheang was the company’s CEO since January 2018, having replaced Mark Brown, and later was bumped up to chairman in August.
Cheang then stepped down after a brief stint in the role, only to have Brown return as the company’s “interim chairman.” Brown was then supplanted by Xia, who has now been replaced by Cui.
IPI has been trying to get the Imperial Palace completely off the ground since early 2017. When it became obvious that its initial construction deadline wouldn’t be met, it asked for an extension from regulators. That extension was granted, on the condition that construction be completed early last year or the company’s license could be invalidated.
Spring 2018 came and went and IPI said it needed more time. At first, it asserted that it would definitely have construction finished by August, then said by the end of the year. Shortly after it, once again, asked for another extension – this time until 2020.
It has become apparent to everyone, except for IPI and, apparently, gaming authorities in the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) that the company is not able to fulfill its contractual obligations. It has a history of not paying employees, allegations of bribes and investigations by the FBI. Some construction workers have even complained that they have been forced to do dangerous work that fell outside the scope of their training and expertise.
Yet, despite a history of not being able to conduct itself in a professional manner, IPI has been able to retain its grip on the project. At this point, it is definitely time that the Commonwealth Casino Commission, which oversees all gambling operations in the NMI, step in and take control of the situation, something it has, for whatever reason, not wanted to do in the past.