The controversial move to give a foreign businessman control of the Central Broward Regional Park is proving to be a real sticky wicket for Broward taxpayers and Jamaican cricket fans. On July 22, a press release announced the Jamaica Tallawahs of the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) was sold to Worldwide Sports Management Group. The release stated Krishna Persaud is the founder and president of Worldwide Sports Management Group (WSMG). Persaud "runs KPC Properties LLC which is a real estate investment firm that has an extensive portfolio in South Florida….Persaud also sits on the board of directors of Oxbridge Reinsurnace Limited."
News of the sale created controversy in Jamaica. Published reports stated the Tallawahs, reigning defending champions of the CPL, would be relocating to Lauderhill. ESPN reported the new owner was "keen" on moving the team to Broward County. ESPN cricket reporter Peter Della Penna wrote the team, "[M]ay soon become the Fort Lauderdale Tallawahs, or find a new name altogether, if the team's new owner has his way. Florida-based businessman Kris Persaud… declared his intentions this week to hopefully shift operations for the franchise from Jamaica to Lauderhill where the team would call the Central Broward Regional Park their new home. It would make them the first USA-based cricket franchise in any of the major T20 franchise leagues." According to Della Penna, a July 27th press release invited local media to "multi-million dollar Caribbean Premier League cricket franchise coming to Broward County." Sources told ESPN that Persaud's group announced to attendees at a Broward event that Worldwide Sports Management Group intends to hold at least three home games per season in Lauderhill.
News of the move upset Tallawahs fans as well as CPL officials. Any move would need to be approved by the Cricket sanctioning body. Also, Tallawahs may lose nearly $1.5 million in fees from the CPL if the team moved to Broward County.
On August 1, Persaud and Worldwide Sports Management Group were in full damage control mode. On a Guyana news website, Persaud said reports of renaming the team the Fort Lauderdale Tallawahs and moving operations to Lauderhill were untrue. WSMG called the ESPN report "misreported information" and "fictional reporting." WSMG said they have no public relations team so any press release was from "unidentified third parties."
Persaud stated the "Tallawahs will remain the Jamaica Tallawahs." The release states Persaud "gave no indication that he plans to relocate the team to South Florida."
Coincidentally, the Jamaica Tallawahs opened their season this weekend at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill. According to ESPN, the Tallawahs beat the Barabados Tridents.
CONTROVERSIAL DEAL GAVE PERSAUD CONTROL OF PUBLIC PARK
In June 2017, Broward County gave control of events at the Central Broward Regional Park to Krishna Persaud and Worldwide Sports Management Group. First proposed in December 2016, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness pushed for the County to give control to Persaud. Commissioners voted to bypass requirements to guarantee a competive process and negotiate directly with Persaud. County staff and auditors were opposed to this "no-bid" process.
In February, REDBROWARD exposed Dale Holness' close ties to Krishna Persaud may have lead the Commissioner to reward his foreign campaign donors with a long-term contract to operate the cricket facilities at the Central Broward Regional Park. Last December, published reports said Holness had been working for “nearly a year to bring this item forward.” Holness was working to give businessman Krishna Persaud control of the $80 million dollar cricket facility along Sunrise Boulevard. “Kris Persaud and his team members are willing to invest their own funds to help Broward County utilize CBRP[Central Broward Regional Park] & Stadium to fulfill its mission of providing international cricket games that will not only bring tourists to Broward County, but also grow our economy and create jobs for the people of Broward County,” said Commissioner Holness.
The Sun-Sentinel reported commissioners were open to Persaud controlling the “white elephant.” Persaud board he had “the means” to bring big cricket tournaments to Broward county. “There is now the opportunity for Broward County to realize the dream of those who planned and built this great facility,” Persaud wrote to the county on Nov. 30.
COUNTY STAFF VOICES CONCERNS DURING NEGOTIATIONS
Broward County staff grew increasingly concerned during meetings with Krishna Persaud and lobbyist John Milledge. A January 17, 2017 negotiation meeting exposed the vague details surrounding Persaud’s attempt to gain control of CBRP. Persaud and his Worldwide Sports Management Group sought a five-year contract with 5 five-year renewal options plus control over booking all events at the park. In exchange, Persaud guaranteed $120,000 (in monthly installments) and three cricket events.
County staffers were skeptical of Persaud’s offer. By the time of the meeting, staff had not received financial statements from Persaud or Worldwide Sports Management Group. Staff tried to explain the submission of two-years worth of financial statements were common in any county deal. Persaud believed his reputation of being a wealthy businessman should be sufficient. He told staff, “I mean–it’s a well-known fact that the sponsor of this, and that’s me, okay, has the financial wherewithal.”
Persaud grew more annoyed with staff’s insistence on actual financial documentation. He said, “I’m being taken back, because I’m telling you, in 2016 I acquire $100 million in real estate. You’re telling me that you need the whole shebang for me to guarantee 10 or 15 thousand dollars a month to the Parks Department? I, you know, I’ll do it. But it’s style.”
Staff was concerned the $120,000 guaranteed payment was substantially less than the previous year’s revenue. Plus, Persaud was demanding use of the facilities for office space and use of a skybox. Also, Persaud refused to guarantee investments to improve the facility.
Staffers were concerned that two of the three events guaranteed by Persaud had been previously booked by county staff. They were concerned that all other events would be booked through Persaud’s group instead of the county. Persaud’s deal would give him near total control of the facility yet none of the burden of upkeep.
In the end, County staff believed other qualified bidders should be considered to operate the cricket facility.
So why was Dale Holness pushing for the deal? A deal that had been negotiated outside the normal bidding process?
PERSAUD FUNDED SHADOWY PRO-HOLNESS PAC
Last August, REDBROWARD exposed Persaud’s financial support of Dale Holness’ re-election campaign. The Latino Vote political committee was funded by Persaud, the director of Oxbridge RE Holdings, a Cayman Islands-based reinsurance company. Even though the political committee was formed in July 2015, it did not receive any contributions until August 2016. Four of the five contributions were tied to Krishna Persaud.
According to their website, Oxbridge RE Holdings is a “Cayman Islands reinsurance holding company that provides reinsurance business solutions primarily to property and casualty insurers in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Through our wholly owned Cayman Islands reinsurance subsidiary, Oxbridge Reinsurance Limited, we write fully collateralized policies to cover property losses from specified catastrophes.” Basically, Oxbridge insures waterfront properties from risks posed by hurricanes. Oxbridge is closely tied to Homeowners Choice, Inc. (HCI) a private Tampa-based insurance company which is supposed to help Citizens Insurance. Published reports claim nearly all of Oxbridge’s revenue comes from dealings with HCI. Persaud is the former director of HCI and Oxbridge chairman Paresh Patel is the founder of HCI.
The four contributions to the Latino Vote group were made by real estate companies owned by Krishna and Sumentra Persaud. These same companies and others owned by Persaud have made direct contributions to Holness’ campaign. In Broward county, Persaud has regularly purchased foreclosed developments at bargain prices.
According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections website, Latino Vote made two $1,000 campaign contributions to the Dale Holness campaign.
In 2013, Tampa television investigators looked into the financial health of HCI. WFTS-ABC reported “Although Homeowners Choice’s parent company saw its New York Stock Exchange-listed common shares more than double in price during the past year, its insurance unit gets a “D” from Weiss Ratings, which evaluates the strength of financial services companies.” Investment watchdogs worried about HCI’s financial practices.
“Seven years on, they’re still not, in our opinion, able to deal with a severe catastrophe,” said analyst Gavin Magor. He was troubled that Homeowners Choice pays regular dividends to common shareholders so soon in its history. “It’s preferable for them not to do that,” he said. “And I would say that for any of these young startup companies.”
The Motley Fool website was stunned HCI used its finances to purchase waterfront real estate property instead of bonds. “Most insurers invest premiums held in reserve against future payments in conservative bonds and other fixed-income securities. This allows the insurer to earn investment profits while still maintaining its ability to pay claims. And even stranger, the company has purchased real estate — it spent $13.7 million to buy two marinas and an adjacent property that are susceptible to Gulf of Mexico storms.” The website called the practice a “red flag.”
Last August, REDBROWARD asked, if Broward County Commissioners have little say over Tampa and Cayman Island insurance companies, why the big push for Holness?
Last month, Holness was enthusiastic about WSMG taking control of the County Park. “Broward County has now stepped onto the international stage. Cricket is a major sport loved by billions of people around the world. Games will be televised back to the countries of the visiting teams which will showcase Broward County for tourism and economic opportunities,” said Commissioner Dale Holness. Persaud said, "“Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium was built specifically to meet ICC standards, and this agreement will allow the stadium to fully meet its promise of bringing international events to Broward County on a regular basis. I look forward to working with Broward County, ICC and the international cricket boards in bringing international cricket to Greater Ft. Lauderdale which will draw significant devoted fans from all over the United States and the world."
Neither one mentioned the impending purchase of the Jamaica Tallawahs. Did Persaud and Holness know about the deal? Did Broward County Commissioners know about the deal to buy the cricket team? Would this knowledge changed the terms of the deal?
Broward County taxapayers gave a sweetheart deal to the owner of sports franchise to control a public park. Imagine if this was an NFL or NHL club. There would have been in-depth negoitations regarding fees from parking to concessions to stadium naming rights. Were any of these things negotiated with Persaud?