Albert Barbusci Likes to Sign Things

Albert Barbusci of Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP) likes to write his name. More specifically, he likes to write his name on documents, preferably with some attendant ceremony. That those documents should be meaningful or open to public scrutiny or of some use in court would be nice, but not necessary, as witnessed by the latest example of his calligraphy, hailed in the Thursday, September 2 edition of the Cape Breton Post under the headline:

MOU provides ‘labour stability’ during Sydney container terminal construction.

Before you start throwing that ticker tape you’ve been saving around, here’s the sub-head:

Project proponent still seeking out port operator, shippers and suppliers.

The “story” is that Jack Wall, president of the Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council, has signed a memorandum of understanding (which he says the council will consider “legally binding”) with Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP).

(HPDP, you’ll recall, is the “company” that is “developing” our port. I employ quotation marks liberally because HPDP is two people—Barry Sheehy and Albert Barbusci—who started out as inexperienced port “marketers” before morphing magically into inexperienced port “developers.” There is a media contact person listed on their web site, but my email to her bounced, and LinkedIn informs me she’s left one PR firm for another, and apparently abandoned HPDP in the process. I had emailed her and Barbusci to ask for the text of the MOU, but as of press time, no response).

(Above: CBC also covered the great signing of papers.)

Under the terms of the MOU (which is very likely not “legally binding,” because MOUs are not usually legally binding) the unions will “guarantee labour stability” during port construction and in return, will be “given a leading role” in said construction. Wall says he’s “hoping to see the project create at least 800 to 1,600 construction jobs but admitted he has no idea how many jobs could come from the project.”

Say what?

In return for signing away their only leverage—the right to strike—prior to contract negotiations, Cape Breton tradespeople will be given something that should be theirs anyway—the right to work on a local construction project?

Before we despair of the future of the Cape Breton trade union movement, however, it’s worth considering that the whole signing “ceremony” (with incumbent CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke “in attendance”) is just the latest piece of port development theater from Albert Barbusci, whose motto seems to be, “When in doubt, sign something.” And his project is decidedly in doubt, he says it himself, in his press release:

Harbor Port Development Partners CEO Albert Barbusci said the shipping industry continues to suffer major losses around the globe, which makes attracting a terminal operator more challenging.

“What’s difficult is to convince the operator to sign today, not knowing if they’ve hit bottom yet in their industry,” he said.

Moreover, HPDP is “awaiting the results from a feasibility study conducted by China Communications Construction Company on whether a container terminal will work in Sydney harbour,” which, presumably, could also give a potential port operator pause. This is one of the elements of the HPDP story I cannot process: they’ve been working, by their own reckoning, for over two years now and have yet to discover whether their project is feasible? How can that be?

What they claim to have, despite that as -yet-incomplete feasibility study, is “financing and construction partners” for the $1.2 billion port project. In layman’s terms, that means, “I have someone who will lend me $1.2 billion,” and “I have someone who will take that $1.2 billion to build me a port.”

What it doesn’t mean—and it’s right there in the sub-head—is “I have a terminal operator” or “I have a shipping line,” i.e. the two elements that make a port project viable.

It’s like announcing you’ve got financing and construction partners for your new shopping mall—you just haven’t secured any stores as tenants.

But strange as the whole thing is, it makes something like sense in the context of Barbusci’s business history. Here are some “Things Albert Barbusci Has Signed,” gleaned from the pages (and pages) he’s filed with the Alberta Securities Commission.


Best Offer

In 2002, Barbusci was board chair and Sheehy a director of a Montreal-based medical conference organizer called Events International Holding Corporation (EIH). Here’s a sample of the signings from that period:

Albert Barbusci of HPDP (left) signs a piece of paper with a representative of CCCC.

Albert Barbusci of HPDP (l) signs a piece of paper with Chang Yunbo, vice president of China Communications Construction Company Limited (r), in China. (December 2015)

June 2002: EIH announced it would buy Barry Sheehy’s consulting and lecturing firm, CPC Econometrics, for $950,000, the purchase price to be satisfied through the issuance of 800,000 common shares of EIH.

December 2005: EIH, having purchased Mahjong Systems Ltd, the producer of Mahjong Mania software, became Dynasty Gaming.

October 2006: Dynasty Gaming announced it would sell its “non-aligned” subsidiaries, including CPC Econometrics, to Barry Sheehy for $300,000, which Barbusci characterized as “the best offer that could be obtained.”


Mahjong Mania

As president and CEO of Dynasty Gaming, Barbusci signed so many things he must have belonged to a pen-of-the-week club. Here are two of my favorites:

August 2008: Dynasty entered into a share exchange agreement to acquire two subsidiaries of a company called Sky Gain Holdings Limited controlled by a Dr. Wilson Cho.

November 2008: Dynasty announced it was unable to complete a proposed US$30 million private placement and could not, therefore, acquire Dr. Cho’s companies.


Chang Yunbo (l) and Albert Barbusci (r) re-signed, in Sydney, in March 2016 the same papers they had signed in China in December 2015. Blurry photos ensued.)

Chang Yunbo (l) and Albert Barbusci (r) re-sign, in Sydney in March 2016, the same papers they signed in China in December 2015.

 Blue Zen

In 2010, Dynasty Gaming became Blue Zen Memorial Parks Inc. (long story, I tried to explain it all here), a company that said it specialized in “high-end Chinese cemeteries,” and yet, within a year, was signing things like this:

September 2011: Blue Zen Memorial Parks Inc. signed a Letter of Intent with International Natural Resources Ltd., (INR) a mining company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, with respect to the business of copper and gold mineral exploration and development in Mongolia and elsewhere in the world.

January 2012: Blue Zen announced that their due diligence into INR’s mining assets had raised some questions regarding the value of the concessions and there was “no guarantee that such a transaction with INR will occur.”

November 2014: Blue Zen signed a purchase agreement with Anfield Resources Inc. with regard to an interest in the Binghampton Copper Queen property in Arizona.

April 2015: Blue Zen announced it had discontinued joint development efforts with Anfield and that a shortage of working capital had caused it to delay engaging its audit firm for its end-2014 audit.

In May 2015, the Ontario and British Columbia and Quebec securities commissions issued cease-trade orders for Blue Zen. In August 2015, the Alberta Securities Commission followed suit.  But by then (on 26 May 2015, to be exact) Barbusci and Sheehy had established Harbor Port Development Partners and moved on to their next big thing.


Broken Record

As some of you know, I’ve been on about the Barbusci/Sheehy track record for months now. To me, the reason seems obvious—past performance can sometimes indicate future returns. Barbusci speaks confidently of his ability to develop a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art container terminal but he spoke with equal confidence of his ability to develop online Mahjong software and high-end Chinese cemeteries and Mongolian copper. He is, apparently, a wealthy man but that seems to be because in the ’90s he sold his Montreal advertising agency (an actual, successful business) to the Japanese advertising giant Dentsu.

Barbusci’s own account of his post-Dentsu years doesn’t mention anything about Mahjong or Chinese cemeteries or copper. In fact, his bio on the Novaporte website tells a completely different story about EIH:

Look who got the pen? Cecil Clarke signs "sister city" agreement with Chinese city of Dalian

Look who got the pen? Cecil Clarke signs “sister city” agreement with Chinese city of Dalian

In the 1990’s…Barbusci also founded and served as CEO of Events International Inc., a full-service, world congress Management Company, focused on major, international medical conferences held around the globe and sponsored by the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.  Barbusci merged Events International with Grey Healthcare Group, a global pharmaceutical marketing and advertising agency, to form Phase V Communications, Canada where he served as Chairman.

I don’t know how to square Barbusci’s account of what happened with EIH with the story told by the Alberta Securities Commission filings but I do know that when I asked Dan Relton, senior vice president and director of HR at the Grey Healthcare Group, about Barbusci and Phase V Communications, Canada, he said in an email:

We don’t know this person. Phase V Canada isn’t affiliated with us.

I sent Barbusci an email asking him to clarify this for me, but I have yet to receive a response.

HPDP’s “exclusive” two-year contract to market our port ends in July 2017, by which time we will probably be up to our elbows in signed agreements—but will we also have a mega-port or will the “port development” years quietly disappear from future Barbusci bios?


Feature photo collage by Flora Campbell.

The Cape Breton Spectator is entirely reader supported, consider subscribing today!



The Cape Breton Spectator is entirely reader supported, consider subscribing today!