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Posted May 05, 2003 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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By Clay Redden | DAILY Staff Writer

Retirement System of Alabama Chief Executive Officer David Bronner drew attention last week for his successful, albeit at times unorthodox, investment strategy.

First, was a two-page profile in Time magazine followed Wednesday by a live television shot on CNBC.

But one of his more unorthodox investments hasn’t yet occurred and it’s not going to unless there’s a change in national political philosophy.

Bronner has his eye on Cuba.

Bronner and several other state officials visited Cuba in February on a trade mission, but since the United States has had an economic embargo and travel restrictions in place against Cuba for more than 40 years, direct trading or investing is nearly impossible.

Despite that, Bronner said, if the political situation changes it could mean big money for one of RSA’s investments, U.S. Airways.

Bronner became U.S. Airways chairman after RSA bought a $240 million or 37 percent stake in the troubled airline and told CNBC that RSA’s investment in U.S. Airways, like most of its investments, is for the long term.

“In the case of Airways, moving thousands of people there every weekend would be huge,” he said. “It would probably be worth $1 billion to $2 billion to Airways alone to be able to have regularly scheduled flights from the East Coast.”

At present, U.S. vacationers go to the Bahamas or places in the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“Everybody’s vacationing in Cuba but us,” said Bronner, noting that Canadians and Europeans flock to the island nation despite the fact it’s controlled by Communist dictator Fidel Castro. “A lot of Americans would like to go there because they have heard about it all their lives.”

Bronner said he was surprised by how friendly the Cuban people were and how clean the country was.

“I’ve never been to any place cleaner, including Disney World. I was in alleys that were cleaner than most streets in America.”

Another thing Bronner noticed on his visit to Cuba was the lack of golf courses. The country has only 27 holes.

But Bronner, the man who developed the idea for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail across Alabama, said don’t expect to see the trail expand to Cuba even if the political climate changes.

“I’m not sure I would want to build any golf courses there because I wouldn’t want to detract from the trail here.”

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