Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Butch – the quintessential Caribbean entrepreneur - Leaders tip hat to late Sandals boss

Published:Wednesday | January 6, 2021 | 12:19 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

A true Jamaican patriot, visionary leader, tourism mogul extraordinaire and the greatest marketer tourism has ever seen.

That is how tourism giant 79-year-old Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, who passed on Monday in the United States, is remembered by business, tourism and government leaders.

PICTURE THIS: Remembering Gordon 'Butch' Stewart

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett hailed Stewart for birthing Sandals, the largest and most enduring brand created by a Caribbean entrepreneur in tourism and arguably the world.

“Butch was truly an icon and innovator, philanthropist and perhaps the greatest marketer tourism has ever seen,” Bartlett said in a release yesterday. “His passing is truly devastating.”

He added that Stewart was a fierce champion and thanked God for the legacy that he has left behind.

“Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has made an indelible mark. He has established himself as not just the standard by which entrepreneurship can be judged, but he has established a brand that has become global and is also the strongest statement [of what] small island states such as Jamaica can make on global scenes, irrespective of their areas of involvement,” Bartlett related.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness asserted that Jamaica has lost a true icon and businessman of the highest order.

Known for his strong business acumen and legendary philanthropy, Holness said he was a nationalist who truly and deeply loved his country.

“Indeed, he was a towering figure in Jamaica. ... Butch was a man way ahead of his time. He had an eye for detail and his ability to market and deliver world-class service in any endeavour was tremendously distinctive. He was an extraordinary human being with an unwavering commitment to the social good,” the prime minister remarked.

Holness added that he has left his unmistakable mark across the region and the world and will be dearly missed.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding saluted Stewart for his path-finding work in tourism marketing and for the contribution he made to the growth of the sector locally and regionally.

Golding characterised him as a remarkable business leader, a tourism mogul extraordinaire, and a patriot.

“Throughout his long and illustrious career, he has always pioneered initiatives that have achieved stellar success. This is the case with the all-inclusive tourism product or the Butch Stewart Initiative in the early 1990s that led to a revaluation of the Jamaican dollar against the USD,” Golding recounted.

Former Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips shared that he had associations with Stewart dating back more than four decades, mainly through his ministerial portfolios.

Phillips expressed that he was one of the greatest entrepreneurs of this era, having started as a small operator to build a multibillion-dollar world-class brand that is recognised globally.

“He was a visionary and genius marketer. In fact, he was the most significant and celebrated figure in Caribbean tourism,” Phillips said, adding that his name and brand are recognised in North America, Europe, across the region and elsewhere.

Stewart served as president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) from 1989 to 1990 and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1996.

The PSOJ described the Caribbean business mogul as a “bold and innovative entrepreneur who was tenacious in his approach to business”.

Stewart also understood the power of delivering world-class service and experiences, which underscored his founding of Appliance Traders Limited, which has evolved from a small appliance company to one of Jamaica’s leading groups, spanning the retail and automotive industries.

“Mr Stewart’s patriotism and love for his country saw his unparalleled willingness to harness public and private sector partnerships towards the development of the country. He was a trailblazing businessman, humanitarian and philanthropist. His exceptional legacy will be forever woven into the story of Jamaica and the Caribbean,” read a section of the PSOJ’s statement.

The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce noted that Stewart’s footprints extended beyond business.

“He was an exemplar of corporate social responsibility, championing education, supporting the creative industries and promoting sport. Intuitively, he understood the complex and interlinked elements comprising brand Jamaica. His was the broad vision of an avowed and vocal patriot who was truly Jamaica’s tireless ambassador-at-large.”

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) in statement said the industry will forever be indebted to ‘Butch’ for his passion for excellence and legendary Caribbean hospitality.

Stewart was one of the first recipients of the Caribbean Hotelier of the Year distinction and was a great supporter of the CHTA.

Describing Stewart as “the ultimate dreamcatcher”, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said that the son of the Caribbean was an intrepid innovator who would be sorely missed.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com