By Matt Smith / Reuters
RAS AL-KHAIMAH, UAE: A holiday resort in the United Arab Emirates that will use the brand of nine-times European soccer champions Real Madrid has yet to finalize its funding options to build the $1 billion complex, the project’s chief executive said on Thursday.
The 50-hectare (124 acre) resort, which is to be built on an artificial island in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, is slated to open in January 2015. It will follow other audacious projects in nearby Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including the world’s tallest tower, a Ferrari-branded theme park and man-made palm-shaped islands.
“The only problem we might face is selecting investors, not so much about whether we have the money to make it, but who will participate, because there are already heaps of people that want to buy most of it,” Louis-Armand de Rouge, chief executive of Real Madrid Resort Island, told a news conference.
The Luxembourg-based firm will hold road shows in April for potential investors.
“The idea is to have six months study from now until year-end and then two years’ construction,” de Rouge said.
This confidence comes despite the failure of a slew of sports-themed projects in the UAE in the wake of the financial crisis, including a Tiger Woods-branded golf and real estate development.
Prospective investors for the Real Madrid resort included “individuals, private institutions and some financial institutions”, de Rouge said.
He declined to reveal how much Real Madrid would invest in the Gulf coast resort, which will feature a 450-room hotel, a marina and yacht club and a Real Madrid museum, plus an amusement park and a 10,000-capacity stadium.
“There’s no way this will endanger the financial safety of Real Madrid,” said de Rouge.
Real Madrid claim to have 300 million fans worldwide — about 4 percent of the world’s population. Around 60 percent of these followers live in Asia, which de Rouge said was a crucial factor in deciding to build the resort in the UAE.
The project will hire independent auditors to ensure the rights of workers building the resort were protected, de Rouge said.
This promise comes after more than 130 artists last year pledged to boycott Abu Dhabi’s under-construction Guggenheim museum over what they said was exploitation of foreign workers, according to Human Rights Watch.
“We are fully conditioned of the way people work here, but we have no issue because we will make sure everybody loves what they do and can be treated fairly,” added de Rouge. –Additional reporting by Warda Al-Jawahiry.