Fine, Richard Homburg tells me over the phone from Zurich, if the people of Charlottetown want his name off the Confederation Centre mainstage, be his guest.
“If it makes them all happy, then let all the people come down there and let them take it down,” he said. “They can have the picture in the newspaper. Have a taking-down party.”
And while they’re at it …
“If somebody else wants to take over the cost with the city of Charlottetown for the promotion of the light show, be my guest. If somebody wanted to take all the retail stores over, that are probably not a profitable operation over the years but we kept buying up because otherwise they’d be closed down … be my guest.”
Sheesh. I only asked how he felt about people blaming him for the Holman Grand hotel fiasco, and that some are even calling for the Homburg name to be removed from Anne’s sacred stage.
But his tone suggests Richard Homburg, big tough multimillionaire, is only pretending he doesn’t care.
He insists he had nothing to do with the closing of the Holman Grand, which put hundreds of people out of work and left tradespeople still waiting to get paid. You and I, as taxpayers, have a $16-million loan at stake.
Technically, it wasn’t his doing. The company that shut it down and sought creditor protection, Homburg Invest, bears his name, but Richard Homburg had been booted out as CEO before that shook down, and his only affiliation with the company are the remaining shares he was unable to sell.
It’s one of the risks of putting your name on a company, he said.
But the vision of the hotel, and how it integrates with the Confederation Centre and Confederation Court mall, is his.
And, he still wants to see it through.
“I like to finish what I started,” he said. “But it’s up to some other people to decide if they think I should be the one doing that or not.”
That would be the Quebec-based company Cominar, ironically the very company that was involved in a hostile takeover of Homburg Invest. Cominar owns Dyne Holdings. Dyne owns the mall, the land and recently purchased the hotel from Homburg Invest.
That was the plan all along, Richard Homburg said, to build the hotel and sell to Dyne, so that one company owned the land, the hotel and mall.
Citing confidentiality, Homburg would not discuss his relationship with Dyne or future business plans, but he did say an announcement is forthcoming regarding the hotel and mall.
It is my belief Homburg is making a pitch to buy Dyne and gain control of the Holman Grand and mall. That would allow him to “finish what he started.” It would also allow him to re-acquire the mall he owned as CEO of Homburg Invest, before things went sour. It would allow him to continue developing the mall, which at one time included a movie theatre.
He indicated he still believes the hotel can succeed if partnered with the mall and Confed Centre. It was just never given a chance because, against his wishes, Homburg Invest shut it down before it had a chance to market itself.
He also reiterated that if he ever gets control of the hotel, the deal “would include that the province would never lose a penny, and not one of the tradesmen would lose a penny.”
“The whole downtown is not finished,” he said. “If somebody else thinks they can do a better job, if somebody else thinks they can be more accepted on the Island to do this, and people think they would be happy with that, then that’s fine with me.”
Again, judging from his tone, I suspect it’s not really fine with him.