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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 4) – The board chairman of the United Micronesia Development Association Inc. says they acquired the former Hotel Nikko Saipan for less than $10 million.

Former Speaker Joe Lifoifoi said the deal was "very fair" for both parties.

On Friday night, UMDA inaugurated the hotel under a new name — Palms Resort Saipan.

UMDA, which received last week the 1,920 shares of Hotel Nikko Saipan Inc., is a CNMI corporation owned by regional individual and corporate shareholders, including the governments of the CNMI, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

"It’s a very fair deal (for both parties). I think the main factor here is that UMDA is owned by a lot of Micronesians," Lifoifoi said during Friday’s ceremony in the hotel’s theater hall.

In a separate interview, Russell K. Snow Jr., chief executive officer and president of UMDA, said they intend to retain the hotel’s 170 employees while embarking on new development for the facility.

He said UMDA is evaluating international hotel management companies that can handle the operation of the Palms Resort Saipan.

"We haven’t picked the management company yet and it will take us 60 days to choose the best management company," he said. "But UMDA will operate the property until the management company gets on board."

Among these companies are Hilton, Sheraton, Outrigger and Marriott.

Snow said UMDA acquired the property, "because we believe in Micronesia, we believe in the CNMI, we believe in Saipan, and the most important thing is we want people on Saipan to understand that this is our new home for UMDA (and) this will also be considered home for the community here on the island."

UMDA, he added, will "work enthusiastically in delivering the same warm and energetic level of service to the community and the visitors."

He said UMDA will maintain and develop the hotel premises that include a large water park, a wedding chapel, restaurants, banquet rooms, tennis courts, racquetball courts, and a botanical garden.

The purchase also included nearby staff residences, dormitories, and interest in Tropical Laundry & Linen Supply Co. Ltd.

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