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British businessman St. Clair dies after health battle

Keith St. Clair, a British entrepreneur who moved to Puerto Rico in 2015 drawn by Act 22 government tax incentives and armed with ambitious plans to develop a handful of tourism-related properties, has died following a battle with cancer, several sources confirmed.

The developer started making headlines shortly after arriving on the island when he became president of ESJ Tower Inc., which manages the tourist/residential condominium in the Isla Verde area of Carolina. He soon began making changes to the building that raised concerns for a group of owners who claimed the actions were done illegally and without discussion.

Among other things, the owners were upset when the ESJ sign was removed from the building — and was rebranded as ESJ Azul — a name that was short-lived after complaints were filed in different forums to get the old name restored.

At the announcement time, former Puerto Rico Economic Development Secretary Alberto Bacó described St. Clair as a “visionary and a visionary with capital,” as reported by News is my Business.

But his involvement with the ESJ Tower soured when timeshare and apartment owners began going public with complaints against St. Clair, who was blamed for neglecting the property. Pictures of cracked walls, exposed rebar and significant leaks began circulating as residents aired concerns about the 17-story beachfront building.

St. Clair had announced at the time that he would be adding two new hotels in the Isla Verde area, Noir and Jade, neither of which materialized. In August 2022, the two buildings he had purchased to convert into beachfront luxury properties were sold for $24.4 million after his companies defaulted on loans with two local banks.

Two other hotel projects, in Cayey and Vieques, were also in St. Clair’s pipeline of undeveloped projects.

But perhaps one of his loftiest plans, in which the local government was deeply involved, was the proposed $70 million Puerto Rico Film District, which he unveiled during a press conference at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, where the complex was to be developed. Ousted former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and officials from his administration were on hand for the announcement.

That project also turned to dust, as reported exclusively by News is my Business in September 2021, after St. Clair’s pre-development agreement with the government had been terminated.

St. Clair’s troubles peaked last year when the management of the ESJ Towers condo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing $39 million in debt. That case continues in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

Beyond his involvement in tourism-related real estate development, St. Clair was an avid musician, playing with the Keith St. Clair Band, and a philanthropist through his St. Clair Foundation, which appears to be inactive.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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