(Who is Tony Fung?)
As local leaders fall over each other endorsing the first plans put forward for the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort, little has been said about the developer, Tony Fung (冯永祥)(Féng Yong Xiang).
We've been researching this subject for some time, and
believe frankly we couldn't do much better.
Tony and his more high-profile and elder brother Thomas are sons of post-war HK financier Fung King Hey, who founded Sun Kung Hai Securities in 1963 - one of the core group that pushed the Hong Kong Stock Market into the big leagues in the 1970's.
Like most wealthy families in Hong Kong, children were sent to the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom to secure educations AND residency in anticipation of the 1997 handover to Communist China. Thomas and Tony Fung were sent to Vancouver, Canada in 1967 after the Cultural Revolution riots jumped the border and threatened to undermine Hong Kong.
With financial backing and a flood of HK migrants entering Vancouver, the Fung brothers did financial, development, and media deals that have been hugely successful there. And there isn't a hint of scandal or dodgy business dealings around any of them.
Interviews with associates indicate that this is not a family that is prone to hyperbole. Tony Fung isn't a Chinese Paul Freebody. The long successful track record of this family speaks for itself. There would have been no announcement if they weren't ready to go. We understand that design and engineering contracts were signed months ago, subject to Queensland Government "fast tracking", and payments from the Fung companies are rolling in as scheduled to the engineering firms.
While John MacKenzie and former Mayor Kevin Byrne (still in hiding from the Pakis) both suggested that the project would take five years to open, this just shows how ignorant many are as to how these projects get up.
Tying up billions during a lengthy construction process is ludicrous - no big project gets run this way. Resort Casino projects in Macao valued at upwards of US$2.8 billion routinely are built and open in less than 24 months! It's this "gone tropo" attitude of construction companies and tradies that will see much of this construction done by foreigners. You can take that to the bank.
The mistake everyone is going to make is calling this a "Chinese" project. This is a quasi-American project. The biggest negotiation now ongoing is for the gaming partner, and you can bet it will be a Nevada-based company. Steve Wynn (Wynn) and Sheldon Adelson (Sands) have already been evaluating the plans in Hong Kong. Harrah's (who stupidly allowed themselves to be shut out of the Macau operations) are also said to be across the plan - as are Bill Sherlock (Foxwoods) and independent Randall Fine.
Forget today's announcement, the one to look for is the one announcing the gaming partner. That's the key.
While the gaming investments in Macau were seen as "sure things", it's been the opening of a casino in Singapore (Sheldon Adelson's Marina Bay Sands) that has confirmed that a casino resort strategy can work anywhere in the region. With no way of establishing a casino in Guam, Cairns is the next closest stop. If Bamaga had an international airport, that could have been the location for this project, not Yorkey's Knob.
Speaking of which - we're likely to see "Yorkey's Knob" changed to something pronounceable by the Chinese. We understand that Michael "Hide the Backhoe" Trout has already agreed to this request.
If the government commits to this project, it will mean a huge change for Cairns. We can't stress enough how big this change will be, make no mistake. As the pressure from 7000-10,000 hotel guests from this one location become apparent, the way things work on every level changes in this town. Reef trip embarkations relocate to Yorkey's. Airport access changes. Big money waved around means tourism products like Skyrail become Chinese-owned (and perhaps even extended directly to Aquis). The suggested 10,000 new jobs means an influx of 40,000 more people into Cairns, living far away from their tourism-pay level jobs. Requiring new solutions for mass transit. And preparing for the economic ups-and-downs inherent in an even more tourism-dependent town. And this project likely makes unviable more casinos in Sydney and Melbourne - sorry, Mr. Packer. You've been gazumped.
The project outlined is ambitious by any measure - surely by any Australian measure. It's well within the capability of the Fung family, and we would be hard-pressed to think of any proposed developer that would be more well-suited to this project. This isn't a "Chinese" project. It's a world-class project that is being developed by ethnic chinese. Quite a different kettle of fish.
More soon. . .