In April of 2011, a family company JKD Holdings (JKD Properties, JKD Investments, etc) led by a former Melbourne theater promoter with a long trail of failed developments right up the Queensland coast purchased the deteriorating Sheraton Mirage, at a huge discount price. Apparently with "Chinese Money", although disclosure about his partners is long overdue.
The development company, led by David Marriner, has been working their way up the Queensland coast, buying distressed properties with apparently Mainland Chinese investor money, and then further distressing the properties.
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While this battle was underway, seeing millions squandered, the Marriner companies doubled down in the Whitsundays by purchasing Whisper Bay in September 2010 for some $60M in OPM (other people's money). This was another collapsed "big idea", the kind of real estate deal that makes Queensland the capital of dodgy deals.
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When the Marriner companies first purchased the Sheraton Mirage, they heralded their purchase with announcements of a "$120M refurbishment", clearly unfunded then, and unfunded today. Spruiking his minimalist theatre credentials in Melbourne, he dangled a 500 seat theatre at the community.
And oh, by the way, please Mr. Minister if you don't mind kicking in $36M of taxpayer money ($18M from Queensland, and $18M from the feds). Sitting beaming in the front row was Member for Leichhardt Warren "Don't Lock That Door, Mate" Entsch along with a clearly uncomfortable Federal Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, who wisely refused to promise a penny to these people. Missing from the sideshow were any members of the Queensland State Government. Anna Bligh was known to be hostile to any more of the Marriner company "deals" after Queensland was victimised by them in the Whitsundays. MP Jason O'Brien was ordered to keep clear.
So now here we are a year later, the Mirage is looking more and more dump-like and so strapped for cash they're turning it into a day-trip. But here we are again with David Marriner beaming with pride and enthusiasm - the Queensland Labor government is gone, and his LNP mates are now holding the public purse. Oh, for just a taste of that public money, Mr. Campbell Newman.
Marriner is again spruiking the media like a showman, spouting figures about jobs, and tax base, and the importance of the Mirage to Port Douglas, yadda yadda yadda. But when you get right down to it, the Marriner companies have a string of big ideas and bigger failures, and with over a year of talk and no action apparently even the Chinese investors have begun to wonder about this song-and-dance. And on the sidelines, but no less worried, is Starwood/Sheraton who continue to field complaints about the hotel's promotion as a "5 Star Resort".
Given the Newman government has stripped the Cairns area of some $138M since the election, it would be an insider deal indeed if this failure of a development company were given taxpayer money while Gavin "Don't Rape Me" King squawks "the sky is falling, the sky is falling" at every public meeting. We're keeping a close eye out for the campaign disclosure forms when released. . .
Thanks to Jennifer Weinstein for her background material on David Marriner