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Friday, June 1, 2012

Fiji's Vatulele Island remains closed (after three years)

Vatulele Island Resort
by Roderick Eime in Fiji (updated August 2015)

It appears the luxury A$800/night resort, Vatulele Island Resort, will remain closed indefinitely following its sale to controversial developer, Albert Bertini. According to a report in the NZ Herald, Hawera (NZ)-based rural services business and Hanover Finance victim Allied Farmers, borrowed NZ$11.6 million in 2009 to acquire the resort.

The 50-year-old Mr Bertini, apparently made overtures for the Fiji property, winner of the 'Fiji's Leading Resort' title at the 2010 World Travel Awards, as far back as July 2011 when he 'spontaneously' married 24-year-old, former teenage surf competitor Renee Hyman on the island. Bertini hit the news again when the company behind the refurbishment of the South Sydney Leagues Club went into receivership in March raising concerns that partners and pals, Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court, would also be exposed.

Quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, Mr Bertini said, despite his losses, "Nothing damages me."

A note on the Facebook page placed by outgoing receivers, ANZ (Fiji), dated 8 March 2012, reads:

We are pleased to announce the sale of the Vatulele Island Resort which has been completed on 29 February, 2012 to a Fiji incorporated company, Trivest International Limited, owned by Mr Albert Bertini, a prominent Australian property developer.

The new owner plans a significant expansion, refurbishment and upgrading of the Resort and replacement and upgrading of Resort infrastructure and accordingly the Resort is closing at the end of February, 2012 to allow this expansion, refurbishment and upgrading to proceed during March and April 2012. We see this as an exciting stage for this iconic property.

Accordingly, the Resort will not be open during the period of the refurbishment and all existing bookings will be refunded. Guests with bookings will be offered alternative accommodation at other leading resorts in Fiji. The Resort regrets any inconvenience to those holding bookings during the closure period.

It is expected that the new owner will make an announcement about the reopening of the Resort upon completion of the upgrading works. Having operated the Resort as Receiver/Managers since 14 June, 2011, we wish to thank our staff and partners for their co-operation and continued support for the Resort.

The note remains on the resort's Facebook page (fetched 1 August 2015)

The following report was posted in August 2013 on the JustLuxe website, supposedly heralding the reopening and probably from a press release, but no evidence can be found that bookings are in fact being accepted. Comment has been sought from the PR agent who issued the release.

The Vatulele Island Resort in Fiji Unveils New Look After $30M Renovation

Links to the Vatulele resort website mentioned in this report return 404 errors as does the Trivest Pty Ltd website.

29 October 2013: The High Court of Fiji determined that Trivest International Limited be wound up [see court document] following petitions from local creditors.

14 December 2013: Sydney Morning Herald PS Private Sydney - Andrew Hornery

Sun and Sandilands

It was no coincidence Kyle Sandilands washed up on a Fijian beach last week; he owns the island - at least part of it. The millionaire radio star has bought into the luxury private resort on Vatulele being developed by new owner, controversial former Sydney property developer Albert Bertini, who left these shores with a string of creditors in his wake.

Sandilands is one of a long line of celebrities of varying repute, including bad boy rocker Tommy Lee, who Bertini has courted in recent months, the heavily bejewelled and tattooed property developer convincing the stars to invest serious dough into the island, which has been billed as a paparazzi-proof enclave for the rich and famous to party on away from prying eyes.

Indeed when photographers were staking out the island in search for Sandilands last week, it was Bertini who appeared to be captaining a boat filled with local "muscle", which was soon circling the tropical paradise in search of those pesky snappers.

However, given Sandiland's 22-year-old girlfriend Imogen Anthony's penchant for uploading bikini-clad selfies while on the island, such measures to avoid being photographed would seem a little redundant for Sandilands, who thankfully avoided any swimwear snaps himself.

Meanwhile, PS hears the mood on the island has become more tense since Bertini's arrival, especially among the 1000 or so villagers who live on Vatulele and who are mostly employed at the resort.

"It's going from Fantasy Island to the Island of Dr Moreau, the locals are getting a little tired of all the so-called celebrities washing up here since Bertini took over," said one observer who witnessed Bertini's naval escapades, which included quizzing the local chief on any suspicious visitors to the island.

Another investor in the island has been former luxury car salesman Nasser Elkordi, a regular around the Kings Cross haunts of John Ibrahim and a close mate of Sandilands.

Bertini first became interested in the island back in July 2011 when he "spontaneously" married 24-year-old former teenage surf competitor Renee Hyman - half his age - on the island. The marriage happened as Bertini's Sydney property development company Trivest went into receivership after the refurbishment of the South Sydney Leagues Club, which has also since gone into receivership causing a headache for Bertini's former pals and business partners, Rabbitohs owners Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court.

The resort's website boasts staff are "unspoiled by Western influences, and to the delight of our guests, maintain their natural gentleness and warmth."

One wonders how long that will be the case given the arrival of the island's new "rock star" residents.

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