A Mogul’s Last Big Deal: Peter Munk to Sell Montenegro Marina
Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk is selling his last significant investment, Porto Montenegro, the superyacht marina and resort that he built as a Mediterranean rival to Cannes, to Investment Corp. of Dubai for an undisclosed amount.
Mr. Munk would not comment on the sale, which had been widely rumoured and was leaked over the weekend in the Montenegro newspaper Vijesti. On Sunday, sources said that Mr. Munk is to announce the sale on Friday.
The price is thought to be €200-million ($287.5-million) or more, though the seller and buyer are not expected to disclose the amount. In an interview in Montenegro in mid-2014, Mr. Munk said that the project by then had cost €287-million, split between debt and equity. The sale price is expected to leave Mr. Munk and his investors whole, with maybe a small profit.
ICD is Dubai’s sovereign wealth fund whose holdings include Emirates NBD, the largest bank in the United Arab Emirates; the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper; Emirates airline, one of the world’s fastest-growing carriers; and Emirates National Oil Co.
It has been an open secret that Mr. Munk has been trying to sell Porto Montenegro for a year or longer. The marina and resort are located on a former Serbian naval base on the Bay of Kotor, on the Adriatic Sea.
Mr. Munk owns 52 per cent of Porto Montenegro’s holding company. His co-investors include some of the world’s wealthiest businessmen – among them Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Lord Jacob Rothschild, the fourth baron of the Rothschild banking dynasty, and Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, the French luxury group that owns Hennessy, Louis Vuitton and dozens of other upscale brands.
Mr. Munk’s son, Anthony, a senior managing director of Onex Corp., the private equity company controlled by Gerald Schwartz, is also an investor. The group purchased the Porto Montenegro site for €23-million in 2007 and slowly turned it into one of the world’s largest superyacht marinas.
The investors were reluctant to put in fresh funds in recent years, which meant it had to rely on the sale of condos and property leases to fund the development. Almost two years ago, the $60-million (Canadian) Regent Porto Montenegro five-star hotel was added to the property portfolio.
The sale of a nearby shipyard is thought to be included in the sale to ICD. The shipyard, where yachts can be overhauled, was coveted by ICD because yachts typically spend 10 per cent of their value every year on repairs and maintenance.
The precise reasons for the sale are not known, but Mr. Munk apparently felt that he had taken Porto Montenegro as far as he could and that a wealthy, big-name investor was needed to take the project to the next level. “Peter’s concern was to find a buyer who would complete the development and who would be best for its future,” a source close to the project said.
It appears that ill health was the other motivating factor behind the sale. Mr. Munk, who is chairman emeritus of Barrick, underwent heart surgery about six months ago. His doctors have instructed him to avoid trans-Atlantic flights, and he is not expected to attend the Friday news conference announcing the sale.
The sale of Porto Montenegro signals that Mr. Munk is winding down after turning Barrick into the world’s biggest gold company and creating, then selling, the Trizec Properties (previously known as TrizecHahn) real estate empire, among other ventures.
As Mr. Munk retreats from active business life, he is expected to sell his ski chalet in Klosters, Switzerland, and bring his 43-metre superyacht, Golden Eagle, which is moored in Porto Montenegro, to his new home on the exclusive Lyford Cay in the Bahamas.
He owns about two million shares of Barrick, which have fallen to $24 from more than $50 since 2011, though they have climbed 50 per cent this year. As chairman emeritus, he attends Barrick board meetings but is not allowed to vote.
Porto Montenegro is the biggest private-sector investment in Montenegro, the tiny Balkan country tucked between Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania on the Adriatic’s eastern shore. The development, next to the port town of Tivat, can handle superyachts as long as 250 metres – more than 100 metres longer than a Canadian navy frigate – in its 450 berths. A section of one of the piers has been leased to the Saudi “golden fleet” – the 100-metre-plus megayachts owned by members of the Saudi royal family.
In the 2014 interview, Mr. Munk said, “The combined value of all these yachts is bigger than the GDP of Montenegro.”
One of the marina’s main draws is fuel that is exempt from fuel taxes and excise charges. The deal, which was negotiated by Mr. Munk with the Montenegrin government, allows yacht owners to fill up at about half price compared with other ports in the European Union parts of the Mediterranean (Montenegro is not an EU member but uses the euro). On the biggest yachts, the fuel arrangement can save owners as much as €100,000 per fill-up.
The tax arrangement and allegations of other sweet deals with the government triggered protests shortly after Mr. Munk and his team took control of the 24-hectare site in 2007.
Mr. Munk bought into Porto Montenegro after determining that the glamorous yacht marinas in France, Italy and Greece were overly crowded and expensive, and too small to accommodate the new generation of superyachts favoured by Russian oligarchs and other billionaires.
The site was derelict when Mr. Munk and his co-investors took the plunge. Several half-sunk submarines were still moored at the long concrete piers that had been used by the Serbian navy and the Yugoslavian navy before the breakup of Yugoslavia.
“Peter Munk’s vision from Porto Montenegro was counterintuitive,” said Danilo Tomanovic, the owner of SIR Montenegro, a property sales and marketing company in Porto Montenegro, noting that it was an unlikely site for a luxury development.