MICHAEL’S BAY – A major chapter in the saga of Michael’s Bay and its seized lands has concluded with the purchase of the sought-after former resort property by a business executive with Island roots, who said he looks forward to making his permanent home on Manitoulin once again.
“I’m just happy to be back on Manitoulin Island and closer to the family,” said Alan MacNevin Jr., the son of Northeast Town mayor Al MacNevin. “I hope that we can take good care of this place, and I’m glad to be home.”
The Royal Michael’s Bay Resort property has been a hot topic for the past 15 years when the Belgian government asked Canada to seize the land in 2005 as part of a criminal investigation. They alleged that Claire and Walter Vandroemme had purchased the resort with the proceeds of selling bovine growth hormone, a hormone that is illegal in both Canada and the European Union.
The seized properties included the resort, featuring a restaurant, banquet centre and a roughed-in golf course.
Canada listed three of the properties for sale earlier this year—the resort lands which also featured a log home, a separate log home and vacant land that could not be built upon.
The former resort carried an asking price of $1.5 million and it sold nearly immediately. The Expositor has since learned that Mr. MacNevin, who grew up in Little Current, has purchased the property to be his new home.
“It’s all my mom’s fault,” said Mr. MacNevin with a laugh. “She and my dad used to come here when it was still a restaurant and they loved it, but I had never actually been here myself.”
He had been following the potential sale news in this paper and when the properties hit the market, he made an offer sight unseen.
“That’s not really my style but I did know the area and I had a sense of how nice it might be, so we went forward with it. I came up the next weekend for a tour and I was beyond thrilled about the place. It’s pretty remarkable and it has quite a story behind it,” he said.
The restaurant was one of Manitoulin’s premier dining options. Some community members had hopes that the new owner would relaunch the restaurant but Mr. MacNevin said he presently had no plans to do so.
“Heading down the path of opening a restaurant right now is beyond my level of courage. I admire the folks like Elliott’s in Little Current and all over who are finding a way to figure this out but that seems a little ambitious for me,” he said. “I certainly understand people would miss the great restaurant that I’ve heard it was, but it was also last open 12 years ago and it would take a lot of work to make it liveable again, let alone host any sort of commercial establishment.”
The story was similar for the half-developed golf course that has since become overgrown.
“I think Manitoulin has three fantastic courses already and a short season, and running a golf course isn’t in my area of expertise or interest,” said Mr. MacNevin.
He has moved into the log home on the resort property and is working with Islanders to redevelop the resort and restaurant into a home for himself, while keeping the log cabin as a guest house for visitors.
Mr. MacNevin is well-versed in the world of start-ups and corporations, having helped to launch Sirius Satellite Radio in Canada and holding a background in companies such as Chapters, CBC and Bell. He currently serves as the chief operating officer of e-book company Rakuten Kobo.
“I hope some day to create a business up here, but I don’t quite know what yet,” he said. “The main thing for me right now is to get to see a lot of the people I haven’t seen in a long time and learn what opportunities exist.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted him and his 400-person team at Rakuten Kobo to working from home, which has allowed him the freedom of movement. He sold his cottage in Apsley (midway between Peterborough and Bancroft) to move back north.
“I am still kind of in shock that I pulled this off and I have plenty of work ahead of me here at the property, plus my day job. The one thing I’m confident about is hard-working people, and this place is filled with them. We’ll figure it out,” he said, adding that remote working technologies have made it more possible than ever before to launch unique ventures in places like Manitoulin.
Unlike his dad, who has held the mayor’s seat in the Northeast Town for more than a decade, the younger Mr. MacNevin said he had no aspirations for Island politics.
“I’ll just be happy to live here and watch the next election,” he said with a laugh.
The neighbours in the Michael’s Bay area of Tehkummah have been very welcoming, said Mr. MacNevin, and he said he hoped to be a good neighbour back to them. He added that his dog was beyond pleased with the extra space in which to run around.
Mr. MacNevin said he enjoys a quiet lifestyle but has been happy to show neighbours around the property. While there are no immediate plans to relaunch the business side of Michael’s Bay, he said he looked forward to the opportunities that Manitoulin may bring.