Struggling Imperial Pacific sheds CFO due to “economic hardship”


imperial-pacific-saipan-casino-cfo-resignationSaipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has shed another top executive while local politicians continue to seek answers on the company’s phantom social contribution funds.

On Friday, the Marianas Variety reported that IPI had made the “difficult decision” to bid farewell to chief financial officer Ed Chen, based on the company’s view that “a leaner finance department is essential to the success of the company going forward.”

Chen is the second senior figure to leave IPI in less than a week, following the resignation of director Teng Sio I. IPI said the company’s current goal was to have “an efficient and effective organization to endure economic hardship and thrive in the future.”

There’s no question that IPI is enduring hardship, having recently announced that it lost over $508m in 2019 and shut down its Imperial Palace Resort casino, in part to minimize further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus but also because the pandemic has effectively cut the remote casino off from its international customers.

IPI said it planned to use the downtime to “speed up our construction work” on the unfinished Imperial Palace so that “when the tourists come back, we are in a much stronger position to be profitable and contribute to the [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] economy.”

A growing chorus of CNMI politicians also want IPI to contribute to the local economy, particularly when it comes to the company’s mandatory contributions to the Community Benefit Fund. Local pols say IPI owes $37m to the Fund, payments that are required under the terms of the company’s gaming license.

The office of CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres told local media that IPI hasn’t been able to meet its Fund contributions due to “the tourism decline.” Rep. Tina Sablan responded by saying local residents weren’t interested in their government offering “excuses for why [IPI] can’t comply, what we need is enforcement” and Gov. Torres is the person who has enforcement authority.

Rep. Ed Propst, another minority lawmaker who has kept the pressure on IPI to honor the terms of its license, put the issue in more stark terms: “Ultimately, there’s four words that we all need to be in unison in saying, ‘show me the money.’”