Millionaires fight for place in the sun

Wednesday 07 May 1997 23:02

A British businessman leading a super-rich group battling to avoid being thrown off a Caribbean island vowed yesterday to stay put until the fight was won.

Several millionaires, including supermarket giants Lord and Lady Sainsbury, as well as author Ken Follett and his wife Barbara (right), the new Labour MP, own exclusive retreats at Jumby Bay, off the coast of Antigua.

Their homes, which they bought from American owners Arawak for more than pounds 1m, depend on the island's hotel for their fresh water and electricity. And Arawak wants to close the 39-bedroom hotel, where rooms cost up to pounds 1,700 a night, because it is unprofitable.

Members of the Jumby Bay Club, to which the home owners belong, say the owners have a contractual duty to provide them with facilities.

The case was yesterday taken to the Antiguan High Court in St John's, where the residents are opposing the closure plan.

Mr Justice Kenneth Benjamin granted them a temporary injunction requiring the firm to keep the resort open until a final judgment, expected next Monday.

The British businessman leading the fight, 62-year-old Peter Swann, said afterwards: "We are confident of victory and were heartened by the decision." He said only three people were left on the island - himself, wife Patricia and neighbour Roland Franklin, a former lieutenant of Sir James Goldsmith. "Most people have left because the situation is so unsure but we are going to stay put," said Mr Swann.

The home owners, who paid up to pounds 47,000 for Jumby Club membership on top of the pounds 1m cost of building plots, are applying for a receiver to manage the hotel.

Mr Swann argued the resort was not running at a loss and that the owners had a hidden motive for shutting it down - such as forcing out the club members before opening up again with more power and influence.

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