IPI must appoint new CEO within 15 days

By Hayley Grammer

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has until 10 July to appoint a new CEO, as ordered by the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC).

According to commission chairman Edward Deleon-Guerrero, the order was prompted by IPI’s continuous failure to appoint a new CEO since the departure of Mark Brown – for the second time – in December.

“We continuously pressed upon them that it is an utmost urgency that IPI appoint a CEO even at an interim basis or acting capacity. We have reached the point now where we have no other options except to issue the order,” said Deleon-Guerrero.

Before approving the order, the commission gave IPI representative Tao Xing a chance to comment. Xing said that while IPI recognises the importance of having a single point of contact in overall decision-making and operations, it would be challenging to bring the new CEO to the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) due to global flight restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that since there are no casino operations at this time, he doesn’t know how effectively the new CEO would currently work with the CCC. Xing however reiterated that IPI is looking at candidates for the post.

Employing a new CEO in just over two weeks comes as part of three official orders by the CNMI’s CCC as IPI continue to face ongoing financial woes.

In addition to the new appointment, the Inventive Star Subsidiary must ensure it can meet its financial obligations to both private vendors and the CNMI government, as well as put aside enough money to cover three months’ payroll, which requires IPI to maintain $1.4 million for the first three months of the effective date of order in early August.

The CCC also requires IPI to double this initial amount in the second three months of the order, and expects the casino operator to have $4.2 million in reserve for payroll by January 2021.

Deleon-Guerrero added that is to guarantee there will be no delayed payroll for IPI employees, both in construction and casino operations.

IPI announced earlier this week that it had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Zhongfeng International Investment Holdings Group Co. Limited for the subscription of $6.5 million in convertible bonds.

The MoU comes at a time when the embattled casino operator finds itself facing multiple court cases over alleged unpaid fees, most notably to its former contractor Pacific Rim, which is chasing $6.8 million for a breach of contract and promissory note.

IPI warned that it may have to permanently close its Saipan casino, Imperial Palace Saipan, should the pending Pacific Rim ruling be enforced. However, the casino may see its doors close sooner, should the CCC follow through with threats to suspend the IPI’s operating license due to defaulting on a $37 million community benefit fund payment, as per its Casino License Agreement.

In addition to its ongoing financial struggles with private vendors and the CNMI, the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation recently cut power to both Imperial Palace Saipan and the company’s head office for failure to pay its electricity bills.

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