I think I mentioned the troubles that La Fiesta Mall in Saipan is having. This exquisite outdoor mall has been plagued by vacancies and the economic woes of the CNMI. In an amazing boondoggle, the Northern Marianas College, or NMC, took control of the lease for the mall about two years ago. At the time the administration was promoting the idea of converting part of the mall into a satellite campus for the college, or perhaps and English language institute for Japanese businessmen. Suffice to say none of these things happened and now the college is saddled with this nearly vacant property. But they got Plans, oh yes they Plans…
Lucio Tan eyed to save La Fiesta Mall
By Gemma Q. Casas
Variety News Staff
ONE of the Philippines’ richest Chinese-Filipino businessmen is being eyed to help save the La Fiesta Mall from being a white elephant.
The government is currently discussing to offer the operation of La Fiesta Mall to beer and tobacco magnate Lucio Tan, the 377th world’s richest man, according to the Forbes magazine’s latest ranking. He has a net worth of $1.5 billion with investments in banking, airline, food and beverage, catering, tobacco and retail.
Tan also owns Micronesia Mall in Guam as well as a host of other companies on the island.
“One name that was brought up was Lucio Tan because he owns Micronesia Mall in Guam. From what I’ve heard, I don’t personally know Mr. Tan, but I know that he’s a very wealthy man and people are saying that $10 million is just a drop in his bucket,” said Northern Marianas College president Tony V. Deleon Guerrero.
One of the possibilities NMC is considering is for Tan to continue the operation of La Fiesta Mall just like his mall business on Guam.
“That’s why I want to develop a request for proposal, so that we can set it out to the media, so that people would know that we’re looking for potential investors to lease and then we would sit down with the board,” Deleon Guerrero said.
La Fiesta mall has become a liability to the already financially struggling government-owned NMC which does not have enough income to pay for the mall’s maintenance.
In an interview with reporters, Deleon Guerrero said management is also considering the original plan to infuse $10 million to finally convert the mall into another NMC campus on Saipan.
But the nagging question is, is it worth considering that NMCâ€™s remaining lease term agreement with the original leaseholder, Cocos Development, Inc., is just 19 years?
On the other hand, the NMC As Terlaje campus is forever under the name of the government.
“The $10 million is a big price tag. Right now, it’s a question in a lot of people’s minds. The other contention that I would really urge is, is it wise for the CNMI to invest $10 million on a leasehold property for 19 years?” said Deleon Guerrero.
“I’m sure that the board will deliberate on this issue and then compare it with the current campus. Some board members are also of clear understanding that this (As Terlaje) campus and this land belong to the CNMI. It’s lifetime,” he added.
“I told the Governor, ‘Is it really wise to go on with the project converting La Fiesta into a campus or leasing it out to private investors?'” Deleon Guerrero said.
He said NMC will release a request for proposals to invite potential investors for the site.
A self-made billionaire, Tan made it big with his business in cigarettes and liquor. His company, Fortune Tobacco, supplies about 70 percent of the cigarette market in the Philippines. His Asia Brewery continues to pose a challenge in the beer market against leader, San Miguel Corp.
Tan also owns Philippine Airlines, the pioneer flag carrier in the Philippines, which is currently under rehabilitation. He owns Allied Bank and a third of Philippine National Bank, which continues to have the largest banking network in the Philippines and the most number of overseas branches among Philippine banks.
© 2004 Marianas Variety Vol. 32 No. 109 Friday, August 13, 2004
NMC officials are basically hoping for a little deus ex machina here in the form of Tan and his millions. He’s shown no interest in the place, and they haven’t even approached him with this great idea of him investing in a derelict mall. They’d be better off buying a million lottery tickets. La Fiesta is a beautiful place, all fountains, tiles and mosaics, but it is in the middle of nowhere. Nobody lives up near there, and only one hotel is nearby. All the other tourists are down in Garapan enjoying the beach and stuff. La Fiesta is a ghost town.