Archive for the ‘ceo’ Category

Bank on MRI Overseas Property: Bansko rated highly!

January 9, 2009

Confirming MRI Overseas Property decision to build here (and that of our clients to buy!), this article from the Houston Chronicle confirms what a great destination Bansko and Bulgaria is:

Off the beaten ski trail but still first class: Bulgaria and Slovakia

2 January 2009, Friday

From The Houston Chronicle
By Leah Larkin

BANSKO, BULGARIA ” The mountains may not be as high nor the slopes as long as those of Alpine resorts in Austria and Switzerland, but a ski trip to Eastern Europe can be an adventure.

Especially when it includes off-slope exploration.
Since the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, many countries have been spending big bucks to develop first-class winter resorts.

Two of the best are Bansko in Bulgaria and Jasna in Slovakia.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d see skiing like this in Bulgaria,” said Borislav Kostourkov, a Bulgarian on his first visit to Bansko, located three hours south of Sofia in the Pirin mountain range.

About $18 million has been spent to turn the area’s ski slopes into a purpose-built mountain resort. New lifts. New runs. New luxurious hotels with spa facilities. A snow-park and half-pipe for boarders. A cross-country track. Even a shooting range for biathlon competitions.

Calling itself “the most modern resort in Eastern Europe,” Bansko boasts 40 miles of groomed slopes, including an extra long run ” about 10.5 miles with a vertical drop of 5,500 feet. When you reach the bottom, your legs are burning.

Eight-passenger gondolas soar from the edge of town ” within walking distance of the hotels ” to the resort hub where chairlifts take skiers to the upper slopes. There are long red and blue cruising runs, trails through the pine forests and a challenging black run.

While all is new and modern on the slopes and at the brand new hotels nearby, the town is Old World Bulgaria, charming and unique. Records indicate a settlement was established in Bansko in the 9th century. It was an important cultural center in the 18th and 19th centuries when talented artists founded a school for painting and woodcarving. Its ancient Byzantine church is dark and mysterious with candles, gilded icons and ornate chandeliers, while its Renaissance houses of stone are a testament to its rich past.

“Downtown” is a collection of ski and souvenir shops with cozy, dimly lit taverns and restaurants. It’s not unusual to see an entire lamb or pig roasting on a spit in front of one of the eateries.

Foreign visitors should leave the slopes behind for a day or two to see more of Bulgaria, a country noted for its Eastern Orthodox monasteries. The biggest and most famous, Rila Monastery, dates to the 10th century and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Rila is an easy day trip from Bansko, as is the ancient town of Melnik, a popular tourist destination known as Bulgaria’s smallest town. Dramatic sand cliffs in surrealistic forms surround the town, which is a good place to taste Bulgaria’s famous wine, also called “melnik.”

Ski Slovakia

Jasna, Slovakia’s premier winter resort, is 160 miles east of Bratislava in the Low Tatra mountains near the Polish border. Ranking right up there with the skiing are nearby off-slope diversions ” water parks, castles and caves.

While Jasna is the largest ski resort in the Tatra range, there are other ski areas in the mountains.

London’s The Daily terms this ski region “the most overlooked in Europe.” In fact, Jasna has become popular with British skiers who book inexpensive package plans.

“The slopes are not crowded,” said skier Corrine Knight of London. “There is a variety of slopes and good terrain for boarders. The lifts are excellent.”

Her Irish companion, Karla Hanna, raved about the food and night life: “The food is gorgeous, really tasty. The night life is great and really cheap.” On an outing with four friends to a club, each paid about $10 for a meal and drinks. “Amazing,” she said.

Jasna, with a vertical drop of 3,024 feet, has two interconnecting resorts, one on the southern slopes of Chopok mountain, the third highest summit in the Low Tatra range (6,680 feet), and the other on the northern side. The 14 miles of downhill runs offer variety, from wide-open terrain to narrow trails through the trees.

The runs are long, primarily cruising intermediate territory. The lifts “a gondola, six-person chair, several four-person chairs and pomas” are all new and modern.

In addition to developing mountain resorts, Slovakia has capitalized on its many thermal springs by building spas, wellness centers and over-the-top water parks.

Leave the Jasna slopes early one day and visit Aquapark Tatralandia, a water paradise with 11 thermal swimming pools. Visitors can soak and swim outdoors in warm, steamy water, moving from water jets to water massages, water spouts to bubblers. Don’t miss the toboggans and water slides for fun and thrills.

Another Slovakia attraction away from the slopes: castles. The country has some 300 castles and chateaux. The most popular, Bojnice, can be visited during a day trip from Jasna. It was rebuilt at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries to resemble a French château in the Loire Valley.

For more adventure away from the slopes, visit a cave. The country has hundreds, with 12 open to the public and many on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Clarification by MRI’ new CEO

January 5, 2009

MRI Overseas Property, DCC International Property

Ending speculation on various trade and investor blogs, the new CEO of MRI Overseas Property, Dominic Pickering, has outlined the company’s plans to focus on construction in 2009.

“We launched 7 or 8 years ago and started constructing at the midway point,” said Pickering. “Most of our profit now comes from construction and the day to day demands, and costs, of marketing are no longer our main focus.”

Pickering told OPP that MRI had gone through a major restructure in the last 3-6 months, closing some of its offices and laying off some staff as the company downsized to adapt to current market conditions. While the board is largely unchanged – Darragh Macanthony is chairman, Paul O’Mahoney is director of construction, and James Forester is marketing director – a significant change is the absence of former CEO Michael Liggan.

“Marketing was always Michael’s forte, so he has set up his own venture,” said Pickering. “This is not an acrimonious departure, and we hope he will send some buyers our way”. This new venture, called DCC International Property, was recently set up by Michael Liggan and is currently promoting projects in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Spain and USA.

Independent venture
Confirming that DCC was “completely independent” of MRI Overseas Property, Liggan told OPP that: “DCC doesn’t have an exclusive agreement to market or sell MRI developments and currently doesn’t have any other exclusive agreements for the many other developments it will be marketing”.

Clarifying the relationship with MRI and its board, Liggan added: “I have a very close relationship to Darragh MacAnthony; not only was I the CEO for his group of companies for many years but I am also his best friend. Because of this a lot of industry people have assumed that DCC is really MRI in disguise when that simply isn’t the case. The truth of the situation is that Darragh wants to focus more of his time on developing and constructing projects around the world and also developing his football club Peterborough United and trying to get them promoted this season and in the next season until they’re in the Premiership.

“With Darragh not wanting to focus on taking over yet more of his ‘territories’ for his real estate company there is an opportunity for someone like me to want to do this and I believe the industry needs it. With Darragh planning on downsizing MRI Overseas Property I felt that now is the obvious time to go for it. Yes, we’re going through a worldwide credit crunch but times like this are often considered the best time to start a new company and for me that means I have direct access to taking on some of the best staff in the industry and also some of the best offices out there”.

Since DCC is currently promoting MRI projects, and occupying some of the MRI offices that had been closed down, there have been rumours of a rebrand. “It’s not a rebrand,” added Pickering. “We’ve spent 8 years building the MRI brand. We offered DCC the option of taking on the leases of some of our office space in Cyprus and Spain. They took up the offer and have even recruited some of the people we had to let go.”

Outlining plans going forward, Pickering said that it would not be relying on the same traditional marketing methods to sell homes. “As constructors, we still know how to sell,” he said. “But rather than spending thousands on stands at property exhibitions, we will be building a network of agents to partner with. We still have thousands upon thousands of clients on our database who have either purchased or shown interest, so we have various options open to us, but our aim is to build sales networks in the UK, Europe and the US.”

While MRI’s headquarters will remain in Spain, Pickering is based in Orlando in the US and is currently in negotiation with local partners to build this network. He also told OPP that MRI had been actively banking land in Europe and the US over the last year to support its focus on construction.