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Resort owner to invest $11 million

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 1, 2009) – After more than a year of controversy over ownership and alleged trespassing on public lands, the new owner of Rota Resort & Country Club yesterday not only signed a formal lease deal with the Department of Public Lands but also announced an initial $1 million worth of water bottling facility and a $10 million casino project.

Hee Kyun Cho, owner of Rota Resort & Country Club, said he has invested close to $10 million to take over ownership of the biggest hotel on Rota.

Cho said the bottling water facility may open as early as February or March 2010, employing 10 new individuals on Rota and will also export bottled water to Japan, Korea, and other destinations.

The initial investment for the facility is $1 million but if successful, the investment may grow to $10 million to $15 million, employing over 100 people, he added.

Cho also said they will start with a boutique casino style and expand it at a later time. He said they are still working with the Rota Casino and Gaming Commission for a casino license.

"From the moment I first went there, I fell in love with Rota," said Cho, when asked about his interest on the island. "Rota is beautiful. Rota has attractions that tourists like."

Public Lands Secretary John DelRosario and Cho signed a lease agreement in front of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, other government officials and the media in the Governor's Conference Room on Capital Hill yesterday afternoon.

The assignment of lease is for the remaining 15 years of a 35-year public land lease agreement between DPL and the original owner of Rota Resort & Country Club, SNM Corp.

In August 2008, JMSH LLC, a holding company that owns Alupang Beach Tower, Garden Villa Holiday Resort and other property on Guam, announced that it had purchased Rota Resort & Country Club.

Rota Resort LLC, a branch of JMSH LLC, had since been operating the resort.

A controversy ensued when DPL said the new owners of the Rota Resort & Country Club might be trespassing on public lands after failing to obtain approval from DPL for their purchase of the 600-acre complex. Later, SNM Corp. said DPL knew about the purchase as early as June 6, 2008 when it wrote DPL's DelRosario a letter.

In that letter, SNM Corp. executive president Michinori Matsumura said that he had engaged in a "stock purchase agreement" to transfer "100 percent" of his company’s shares in the resort to Rota Resort LLC, its new owner.

Fitial and DelRosario said yesterday they welcome the investments of Rota Resort LLC. Fitial said he will be meeting with the Rota Casino Gaming Commission to discuss Rota Resort LLC's casino project. The rescheduled meeting will be held on Oct. 9 on Rota in time for the island's San Isidro fiesta, the governor said.

Had Rota Resort LLC not stepped in, Rota's economy will further weaken, DelRosario said.

Cho said no other investors could have contributed to Rota economy at this time. He said the casino project will target markets different from those tapped by Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino and other casino investors.

In the same news briefing yesterday, Fitial said he will file a formal complaint with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration over "breach of protocol" for not informing him of an ongoing investigation into his former driver, Pete Reyes. He said if the allegations against Reyes were true, his life and that of his family could have been in danger for months from those who buy "ice" from Reyes.

Reyes was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a playground with intent to distribute. He allegedly used Fitial's vehicle to sell "ice," sometimes right after dropping off the governor at his office on Capital Hill.

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