Investor and philanthropist John Paulson, now the majority stakeholder in The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, shares why he chooses Puerto Rico as his island paradise.
By Damon M. Banks
Powerhouse investor John Alfred Paulson—whose firm recently became the majority stakeholder in The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort—is one of the most talked about hedge fund managers today. In 1994, he founded Paulson & Co. with $2 million and one employee. After experiencing just a couple of challenging years in 1998 and 2011, the investment firm is now worth an impressive $18 billion, and boasts more than 120 employees in its New York, London and Hong Kong outposts.
Having reached the billionaire level by 2007, Paulson undoubtedly has a firm grasp on his financial strategies. Paulson shot to fame and fortune in 2007 when he correctly predicted the housing bubble.
Above all, however, Paulson remains a dedicated philanthropist. In 2012, along with his wife, Jenny, he pledged $100 million to New York’s Central Park Conservancy—the biggest donation ever made to a public park. His New York apartment faces the Manhattan icon and overlooks the reservoir and, as Paulson has recalled in multiple interviews, he often visited the storied wonderland as a child. In addition, he has contributed $20 million to his alma mater, New York University (NYU), $5 million to Southampton Hospital near his summer home and $15 million to construct a maternity hospital in his father’s birthplace of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Here, Paulson reveals his motivations for purchasing the majority stake in The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, as well as his recommendations for an ideal day at the extraordinary retreat, the place he calls “the finest residential and vacation enclave on the island.”
The Lure of Puerto Rico
Paulson views Puerto Rico as a quality long-term investment for both personal and financial reasons. Since Paulson & Co. acquired the majority interest in The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and the Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club in September, he has worked to increase awareness of Puerto Rico’s latent potential, which has gone mostly unexplored until now.
“The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is already one of the premier leisure travel destinations in the Caribbean, and there is increasing demand from both those looking to purchase holiday homes in Puerto Rico and from those living [on] or moving to the island,” Paulson says. “It appeals to high-end Puerto Rico residents; it appeals to foreign residents that want a second home; it appeals to retirees that may want to relocate; and it appeals to any business people that relocate to live in Puerto Rico.”
Paulson adds that one of Puerto Rico’s inherent benefits is its utter convenience for both American investors and travelers. Because the island is technically part of the U.S., investing in Puerto Rican businesses comes with all of the legal protections of the mainland. Additionally, Puerto Rico has a highly educated workforce, and Americans do not need a passport to travel to the island. Direct flights from 20 North American cities to San Juan’s airport, just 25 minutes from the resort, provide unmitigated access to the island’s idyllic coastline and verdant rainforests.
The natural beauty of these scenic attractions, coupled with the island’s rich culture, attract ample visitors—especially ones like Paulson, who prefers to enjoy his perfect Puerto Rican day exploring The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort’s incomparable amenities and accommodations.
Although he travels the world, Paulson remains enamored of Bahia Beach’s distinctive atmosphere, a characteristic that keeps him and his family coming back year after year. When visiting The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, their days are jam-packed. “We partake in almost all the recreational activities,” Paulson says. “I’m an early riser, so I like to start with a jog along the 2-mile, pristine sandy crescent beach.”
After enjoying some undoubtedly much-needed personal time, Paulson heads out for the day with his children. “When my kids wake up, we bike over to the lake and do a little kayaking in the nature preserve,” he explains.
A dedicated environmental advocate, Paulson plans to protect the preserve by honoring the conservation efforts maintained by The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. With the belief that protecting the environment now will provide a more fruitful future, approximately 65 percent of the 483-acre Bahia Beach Resort and Golf Club is preserved as sanctuaries, nature trails and green areas. In fact, the resort is the Caribbean’s only Audubon International Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary. Situated at the foot of the El Yunque National Forest—the sole tropical rainforest on U.S. soil—and bordered by the 5,000-acre Espíritu Santo River State Preserve, the sprawling utopia offers guests an in-depth look at an unparalleled outdoor bounty.
Here Comes the Sun
An afternoon with the Paulson family typically centers around the swimming pool. After a morning of biking and kayaking, the family swaps their sports equipment for swimsuits.
“Then it’s on to the incredible Seaside Pool Esplanade overlooking the ocean,” he says. The cerulean infinity pool mimics a tropical lagoon but includes all of the bespoke luxuries so closely associated with the St. Regis brand. Eleven private cabanas, flat-screen TVs and refrigerators are all available for guests’ use, and the St. Regis’ signature butlers eagerly fulfill last-minute poolside requests.
“We like to get a cabana for the day and alternatively swim and sun with a break for a seafood lunch at Seagrapes, where the fresh ceviche is my favorite,” Paulson adds. The casual eatery is also a favorite of St. Regis guests, and offers a variety of cocktails and classic options such as Caesar salads, steak sandwiches and brick oven pizzas. The ceviche, Paulson’s dish of choice, is one of Executive Chef Rocio Varela’s specialties and a staple of Caribbean and Latin culture, which Paulson was first introduced to during a teenage adventure through international territory.
While at NYU in the mid 1970s, Paulson took coursework in creative writing, film production and philosophy befoe graduating summa cum laude with a degree in finance. His father could sense his disinterest in academics, however, and decided to give Paulson some time to rediscover his spark for learning by sending him to South America for the summer. His travels ended abruptly in Quito, the country’s capital city, when he found himself without the money to continue his adventure.
Always a true entrepreneur at heart, Paulson collaborated with his father by sending inexpensive children’s clothing and wood flooring from South America to the U.S., where his father had established a system of distribution for the items. He then went on to receive his MBA with high distinction in 1980 as a Harvard Business School Baker Scholar.
Though hardly the foundation for a financial empire, Paulson’s time spent abroad was a pinnacle moment in his life, and his experiences certainly fostered an appetite for global travel that he continues to satisfy in Bahia Beach.
When Dusk Approaches
As the weather cools and the sun begins its lazy descent beyond the horizon, Paulson hits the tennis courts. “The tennis club is situated amongst lush gardens and has a great pro as well as ball machines to practice my game,” he says of the afternoon athletic release. To cater to guests like Paulson, the cutting-edge center keeps two of its four courts lit for late evening play.
Later, Paulson opts to reconvene with his family. “At night, we start with a cocktail at the St. Regis bar while we watch the sun set over the ocean,” he says. Afterward, the family heads to Fern to enjoy the cuisine of Jean-Georges [Vongerichten]. At Fern, the internationally acclaimed chef has developed an inspired menu that combines classic American and international flavors. The restaurant emphasizes authenticity with handcrafted cocktails, fresh seafood and produce sourced from local vendors or grown on site at Fern’s hydroponic garden. The gourmet institution offers a children’s menu for young diners.
A consummate family man, Paulson treasures time spent with his own children. Further emphasizing his preoccupation with family, in September, he purchased Steinway Musical Instruments Inc. in part because the company continues to remind him of his older sister, who wanted so badly to own a Steinway as a child but was hindered by their family’s financial limitations. Today, under a much different set of circumstances, Paulson says he views Steinway as an investment rather than an expense.
“Over time, they will increase in value,” says Paulson, who personally owns three Steinway pianos. “They are the epitome of high culture and art. My goal is to preserve [the company] and to ensure the greatness is continued, in particular to the quality of the instruments, and secondly to expand the distribution to other parts of the world where not fully represented … not only in the current generations but future generations to come.”
Though a shrewd investor, Paulson undeniably approaches his work with a hint of sentimentality. Just as he aims to preserve Steinway for future generations, he also hopes to protect The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort’s sterling reputation as an unparalleled premier destination.
“Owning a luxury Caribbean resort property has always been a dream of mine,” he explains. “The St. Regis brand is synonymous with high quality, elegant taste and exceptional service. When I became aware [The] St. Regis Bahia Beach was available, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a virtual paradise.”
“We’re finalizing the plans for a 10,000-square-foot oceanfront villa where the only thing between your living room and the ocean will be an azure blue pool,” he adds of his upcoming contribution to the unrivaled resort.
Of course, one day is hardly enough for Paulson and his family to enjoy the spectacular bounty the resort and its Puerto Rican surroundings have to offer. With his recent investment in The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Paulson will no doubt return to this stunning sanctuary again and again.