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Receivers expected to supervise financial restructuring

Receivers expected to supervise financial restructuring

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After operating in St Vincent and the Grenadines for almost 29 years, the doors of the three branches of the local KFC franchise were shut yesterday by receivers appointed by the Bank of Nova Scotia.

Ormiston A “Ken” Boyea, managing director of St Clair Investments Ltd, parent company of KFC (St Vincent) Ltd, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday {{more}}evening that the receivers from the auditing firm Grant Thornton, will, over the next few days, be making an assesment of the business, which employs approximately 190 people.

He said the auditors hope that by Thursday, they would be able to re-open the doors of the fast food chain, which first began operating in St Vincent and the Grenadines on May 8, 1986, with one branch at corner of Grenville and Melville Streets in Kingstown.

Boyea said that a downturn in his fortunes was caused by the $16 million investment he made in the construction of the ‘mall’ at Arnos Vale, which now houses the Super J supermarket, KFC 3 and Pizza Hut.

He said when he made that investment, he thought he was “ahead of the curve” as he expected that by now, the Argyle international airport would have been finished and that Arnos Vale would have been already turned into the “new city.”

“I got a lot of congratulations for jumping the gun, but now I am paying the penalty,” he lamented.

The 77-year-old businessman said both the supermarket and KFC are doing well, but he has had difficulty getting the upstairs of the supermarket, which was built for offices, rented. In addition to that, even the rent he is getting for the supermarket is not as much as it should have been.

“They asked me to go light on rent, and the foolish decision I made was to agree,” he said.

Boyea, who was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in 1996, said although KFC is doing well, he has to take funds from the restaurant to pay the large mortgage he had taken to finance the construction of the mall.

“With the downturn in the economy, KFC can’t afford to pay rent for itself and rent for other people. So, it’s a bit of a problem. I have been behind with my rent.”

He disclosed that although he has real estate valued at over $32 million, no one wants to pay him what his properties are worth.

“Now that the chips are down… nobody is prepared to buy….”

The experienced businessman said the property at Arnos Vale has recently been valued at $18.8 million and he is prepared to sell the supermarket portion for $12 million and keep the building which houses KFC and Pizza Hut, but he cannot find a buyer.

“I don’t know if it is the downturn in the economy, or if people know you are under stress, and they don’t want to buy….”

He said the Bank of Nova Scotia called in the receivers to look into the situation to see if they could come up with a solution.

Boyea, however, said that he is hopeful that he will be able to turn things around because “people are trying to put together a package to save the business.”

He said he is ready to retire and would like to see other Vincentians buy shares in KFC, which is “very profitable.”

Boyea, an engineer by profession, said all his working life, he has never really had a vacation.

“All my jobs have been 24-hour jobs, from the electricity (Commonwealth Development Corporation) to the flour mill (ECGC) to KFC.”

He said his wish is to sell some shares in the KFC franchise, as well as some of his real estate.

“I’ve reached too big, talking too much money to be by myself, but I don’t know if people are ready.”

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