Commission orders IPI to meet payroll, vendor obligations

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Imperial Pacific International's casino-hotel, which is still under construction on Beach Road in Garapan, Saipan, is pictured March 31. Bryan Manabat/For The Guam Daily Post

SAIPAN – The Commonwealth Casino Commission approved three separate orders on Thursday requiring Imperial Pacific International to meet its obligations to private vendors and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government; to deposit money in reserve for three-month payroll; and to hire a new chief executive officer.

The commissioners approved the three orders unanimously during their regular monthly meeting at the commission office in Gualo Rai. Commission Order 2020-002 requires IPI to appoint a CEO within 15 calendar days from the effective date of the order, which is on July 10.

Commission Chairman Edward C. Deleon Guerrero said the order was prompted by the continuous failure of IPI to appoint a new CEO. The commission, he said, has been asking the board of IPI to name a new CEO since the departure of its former CEO, Mark Brown.

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

Commissioner Diego M. Songao said these orders should “wake up” IPI.

Before the commissioners voted to approve the order, they allowed IPI representative Tao Xing to speak.

Xing said IPI recognizes the importance of having a single point of contact in terms of overall decision-making and operations. The IPI board, he added, is in the process of selecting a new CEO from a list of candidates. But even if a decision is made now, it will be a challenge to bring the new CEO to the CNMI due to global flight restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, there is no casino operation at this time. Given the situation, he questioned how effective a new CEO can work with CCC.

Commission Order 2020-003 as amended also requires IPI to maintain sufficient working capital to pay three months’ payroll in a bank in the CNMI or the U.S. Specifically, the order requires IPI to maintain $1.4 million for the first three months of the effective date of the order, which will be in early August.

In the second three months, the order requires IPI to double the amount or have $2.8 million “standby” funds for payroll. Starting January 2021, IPI should have $4.2 million in reserve for payroll.

This order, Deleon Guerrero, said is to guarantee there will be no delayed payroll for all IPI employees, both in construction and casino operations.

Xing reiterated the support of IPI, adding, “As you all know, the company has been trying hard to fulfill all its obligations,” but the pandemic has severely affected IPI.