On November 3, 2000 a signing ceremony was held involving St Kitts Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, Mr. Vincent Morton, Chairman of the Frigate Bay Development Corporation and Mr. Vic De Zen. The announcement stated that the world class resort was being built by Technologies Limited of Canada.
Royal Group Technologies growth allowed De Zen vast liberties in pursuing side-bar projects and the doling out bonuses to family and friends. The line between Royal Group Business and De Zen’s personal business became a complete blur. De Zen owned over 80% of the shareholders votes. With Zuliana bought out De Zen took the St Kitts project to new heights. He brought in his brother, Angelo De Zen, to head up the construction and Joey Cecchini was in charge of the design build of the Royal St. Kitts Beach Resort & Casino. The architect was Claudio Rabaglino from Toronto. According to the Toronto Mail and Globe “the resort became so important to De Zen that he turned over one of Royal Group’s Boardroom – dubbed the war room – to the project. As construction progressed, 16 contractors were involved and about 3,000 shipments of products were made from Toronto. By 2000, roughly 700 workers were on site, some of them connected to Royal Group.”
Marriott International announced a soft opening of their 471-room resort, St. Kitts Marriott Royal Beach Resort & Spa, on February 22, 2003. It is the tenth property in Marriott and Renaissance Offshore Resorts’ portfolio. John Toti was the resort’s opening General Manager. Marriott said the resort is owned by Royal St. Kitts Beach Resort Ltd. Marriott’s opening announcement said the resort’s five-story main building has 237 guestrooms. Between the main building and the beach, a series of three-story garden houses, surround the swimming pools, house an additional 234 rooms. Guestrooms are oversized and well-appointed with most including large, private balconies. Each bathroom of the houses will have a whirlpool bath.
For dining and entertainment, the St. Kitts Marriott Royal Beach Resort has six restaurants, two bars and a disco: La Cucina, an Italian restaurant; Royal Grill Steakhouse, offering outdoor seating; BLU, a seafood restaurant; Bohemia Beach Bar & Grill; Calypso, a family style restaurant, Golf Club House Restaurant; Lobby Bar; Keys, a cigar and rum bar; and Tigers, a disco. Recreational amenities include a 15,000 square foot spa, three swimming pools, tennis courts, retail shopping, Kids Club and a 35,000 square foot casino. A newly-designed 18-hole golf course, operated by Marriott Golf. For conferences and social events, the St. Kitts Marriott Royal Beach Resort & Spa has 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 7,100 square foot ballroom that is divisible into three sections; meeting rooms offering 5,000 square feet of space; and a board room and terraces for pre-function receptions and events.
In hindsight Vic De Zen gained a Caribbean luxury resort but lost his billion dollar company. In February 2004 the St Kitts development became the subject of an extensive Ontario Securities Commission and Royal Canadian Mounted Police criminal probe into whether Mr. De Zen used Royal Group money or assets on a private development project. It seems the Royal Group shareholders new virtually nothing about the massive resort project on St Kitts! Vic De Zen was ousted as board chairperson of Royal Group in 2004 after an internal investigation. Two years later, the company was sold to United States-based Georgia Gulf Corp. for $1.7 billion. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) charged De Zen and other former executives with defrauding the company of more than $29 million.
The trial respecting the allegations made against Mr. De Zen and others commenced in April 2010. On December 10, 2010, at the conclusion of the five-month trial, the trial judge acquitted the defendants of the two charges they faced. The trial judge found overwhelming evidence supporting the defense that no fraud, no deceit, no dishonesty and no concealment had taken place. Indeed, the judge indicated that it would be a “travesty of justice” to wait even one day before pronouncing the verdict of not guilty.
Mr. De Zen formed a new company, ZZen Group, which includes the Marriott beach resort that has become the Caribbean island’s largest employer. When Mr. De Zen travels to ZZen’s resort in St. Kitts – his favorite way to relax is to work on small repairs. Joseph Sgro, an assistant to De Zen says he actually has a tool belt when he is at the resort … walking around the resort grounds and he fixes things and talks to the landscapers.
Georgia Gulf Corporation, a large PVC raw-material manufacturer, completed its acquisition of Royal Group on October 3, 2006 for $1.6 billion.
Vic De Zen and his partners Fortunato Bordin and Domenic D’Amico have supported the people of St Kitts and Nevis since their first agreement in 1997 to build the Marriott Resort. This first initiative produced strong economic and social growth within the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis. Vic De Zen’s group continues with investments that have created the following St. Kitts businesses and organizations which collectively employ more than 1,000 persons in the Federation:
*St. Kitts Marriott Resort;
*Marriott Vacation Club;
*Royal Beach Development Group;
*Royal Beach Casino;
*Royal St. Kitts Golf Club;
*Royal Utilities Limited
The St. Kitts Marriott has had 4 General Managers.
Jacques Hamou, General Manager, ( 2012 – ) St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino appointed Jacques Hamou as General Manager in February, 2012. Hamou’s career in the hospitality industry spans 30 years. He joins the property from Montreal where he served as general manager for the Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain for thirteen years. Previously, Hamou was at Fortis Hospitality Corporation in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he held the position of director of operations for Delta Sydney, Holiday Inn Sydney and the Sydney Inn.
Flor Van Der Vaart, General Manager (2008 – 2011) – Flor van der Vaart was appointed General Manager of St. Kitts Marriott Beach Resort on July 6, 2008. Flor began his career with Marriott in 2004 as the Resident Manager of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Prior to joining the Aruba Marriott Resort, Flor was the Operations Manager at the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club in Puerto Rico. Van der Vaart received his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from The University of Phoenix. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from The University of The Hague – Haagshe Hogeschool in Holland.
George Landa, General Manager (2006 – 2008) – St Kitts Marriott Resort & the Royal Beach Casino appointed Cuban-born George Landa as General Manager in April 2006. Most recently he was general manager at the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino from 2003-2006. Previously he also served as General Manager of the Intercontinental Hotel in Valencia, Venezuela.
John Toti, Opening General Manager ( 2002 – 2006 ) John Toti was named general manager, responsible for overseeing all aspects of operations at the new St. Kitts Marriott Resort. Most recently, Mr. Toti was the general manager at the Guatemala City Marriott. During his 25-year career with Marriott, Mr. Toti held positions in various aspects of hotel operations. In the food and beverage departments, he served as executive chef for Marriott Hotels in the Orlando World Center, Panama City and Puerto Vallarta, and was director of food and beverage at the Marriott Plaza Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mr. Toti later went on to work in the operations segment, becoming area director of operations for Marriott’s Caribbean region and assisting on short and long-term projects for resorts in St. Thomas, Jamaica, Caracas & Costa Rica. He served as director of operations at the Guatemala and Lima Marriott Hotels as well. Mr. Toti was also director of groups and conventions at the Marriott in Puerto Vallarta. Toti is now retired and lives in Naples, Florida.
Wayne Michaelson is the current Executive Chef, (2015 – ) – Executive Chef Wayne Michaelson, previously from the Macon (Georgia) Marriott City Center, is in charge of overseeing daily operations of the resort’s eight onsite restaurants as well as catering for special events. Before his previous job in Macon, where he supervised seven kitchens, a catering facility for 2,500 people, Chef Michaelson owned and operated his own restaurant for a decade. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Michaelson began his career in hospitality at Omni Hotels & Resorts in 1984 in Alabama as an Executive Chef. He then moved to Puerto Rico in 1986 where he worked for prominent hotels such as the Caribe Hilton Hotel & Casino, the Hyatt Regency Cerromar Resort, the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Golf Club, and the El San Juan Hotel & Casino, a Waldorf Astoria Collection hotel.
Arun Maharajh is the Vice President Operations at the resort’s Royal Beach Casino. Maharajh started at the casino in 2005 as the Financial Controller. Previously he was a business analyst at the Ontario (Canada) Lottery and Gaming Corporation.
Compiled by Dick Johnson