Anfi: The Story Behind the News Part One

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, you are all familiar with the news published on these pages involving the numerous court cases involving the sale by Anfi of illegal contracts. These begin at the Courts of First Instance and as we have seen it doesn’t end there, with Anfi taking every case through to appeal at the High Court and attempts to file yet more appeals with the Supreme Court. Each and every case fails, with the original judgement being confirmed and the appeals being dismissed. But Anfi has been in the news for other reasons as well, the most notable recently has been the Tauro Beach Project, a case which has already seen one conviction.

We have also seen many boardroom battles which have spilt over into the courts, arguments between the partners, first the Cazorla Group and the Lyngs, now it is the Cazorla’s and the Lopesans. All is not well at Anfi as we will see later this week with yet another courtroom battle raging.

To start the story we have a look at the early history of Anfi, the project to build Bjorn Lyngs, dream of a luxury hotel complex, how it became “timeshare” and then the subsequent problems which are now plaguing Anfi.

The late Bjorn Lyng was a well known and seemingly respected businessman and entrepreneur, he was Norwegian by birth and began his working life apparently as a blacksmith. Over the years he began to make a name for himself in the business world making himself and others huge amounts of money. He was certainly successful.

To cut a long life story short, he eventually made enough and decided to “retire” to Gran Canaria, a place he already had ties with. He owned a place by the Golf Course in Meloneras, and he also had property in Tenerife, but Gran Canaria would become central to his “retirement” dream.

With his business interests in the hands of others, mainly his own sons, he began his “retirement” and his plans for his dream. This was the development of a hotel/resort in the “International Super Class” category. He believed that there would always be a demand for luxury upmarket hotels and resorts among the world’s rich and elite.

Punta de la Vega before the mountain was moved.

His target for development was Barranco de la Vega and Punto de la Vega, the latter being a mountain that nested right up to the coast. A whole mountain was going to have to be removed to build his dream.

By all accounts, Lyng undertook many surveys with the help of the University of Trondheim, all to ensure that his dream for the resort could be carried out. Well, he was going to move a mountain. This is a little different to what we have found with the latest Anfi project.

The Norwegian-Spanish construction company got underway, with the Norwegians training the local Spanish to operate the machinery and eventually take over the construction. The project was providing much-needed employment and training for the local populace.

All appeared well, unfortunately at the start of the 1990s, international tourism took a dramatic nosedive, tour operators and charter companies began to tighten their belts and many folded. Lyng was now losing money hand over fist and he had to take a very close look at his next move and options.

This is when he changed course in his “dream” and began to look at the timeshare option. He knew nothing of timeshare so off he went to Hawaii, a timeshare market that appeared to be flourishing and was operating at a serious level. Here he studied the timeshare model and this is what he brought back for the “new Anfi dream”.

By 1994 the sales of timeshare apartments were going through the roof, building work was going at a great pace, so much so that it was not keeping up with sales. By the time the finishing touches were being made, the “owners” were queuing up at the door.

At this time the model being used was what timeshare originally intended, the fixed week with an apartment number attached, the “owner” was guaranteed the week and apartment they purchased every year. How things would change when greed really set in.

The beginnings of construction and the end result.

Anfi itself certainly wowed the visitors, there are stories of holidaymakers telling each other to go and have a look round. The old ticket touts (OPCs) on the streets of Puerto Rico and Playa del Inglese made a killing supplying a steady stream of potential buyers.

The sales teams were making a fortune in commission, so much so that word travelled fast around the world about the opportunities and money being made selling the “Jewel” that was Anfi.

By far the largest purchasers, in the beginning, were the Norwegians themselves, the fact that one of their own and someone with a good reputation was behind it, gave a special kind of validity to the product. Also to them, the price was not really a concern.

There was also a brief partnership with the German travel giant TUI, but this came to an end by 2004. There were various reasons, one being that TUI had some financial problems, having overextended in the 1990s. They had to sell off many acquisitions to raise money, one was their share at Anfi.

This aside, times were good, but it was not going to last. Tomorrow we take a look at how things began to change and the arrival of the Cazorla Group. The development at Tauro, with the splendid villas and championship golf course. We also look at how the product changed and did not meet the required laws of 1998, regulating timeshare sales and coming into force in January 1999.

All this and what is to come will give you the reader a good insight into how the current situation has developed, it will make you think about how Anfi has changed from its initial concept and the trouble they have today. From the illegal contracts which they continued to sell to some very serious and dubious business dealings and the subsequent investigations the story continues, it is one that has had a very negative effect on the timeshare model and this “flagship” resort.

Join us again tomorrow for the next instalment of Anfi: The Story Behind the News.

Translations

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