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Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the founder and chairman of Sandals Resorts International, has died at the age of 79.
The all-inclusive hotel space would not be what it is today if not for Stewart, who grew Sandals from one resort in Jamaica to the expansive all-inclusive empire — with more than two-dozen properties spanning the Caribbean — that it is today.
Stewart, a native Jamaican, was well-regarded as a master marketer and entrepreneur. He was a champion for the people and places of the Caribbean, and will long be remembered for his vibrant personality, his drive for innovation, his philanthropy and his sharp business acumen. He believed that success will come when a company takes the time to “find out what people want, give it to them and in doing so, exceed their expectations” — a philosophy that he articulated several times to his colleagues over the years.
The Sandals brand evolved from a sole rundown beachside motel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that Stewart transformed with $4 million in renovations over the course of seven months in 1981. It opened as Sandals Montego Bay, the company’s flagship property, which served as a catalyst in resurrecting Jamaica’s travel industry. Since its founding, Sandals has evolved to become Jamaica’s largest private sector group, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and its largest non-governmental employer. The company also expanded throughout the Caribbean; at the time of his death, Stewart was planning recently announced expansions in Curacao and St. Vincent.
Stewart was also widely recognized as a driving force for the modern-day all-inclusive hotel model. In addition to bundling meals and room rates, Sandals Resorts’ price encompasses gourmet dining options and white-glove service, along with premium-brand drinks, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and watersport activities. Sandals was also the first to introduce whirlpools and satellite television service, along with swim-up pool bars, a king-size bed in every guestroom and a hair dryer — all of which contributed to Stewart’s “we can do it better” philosophy.
The company will remain owned by the Stewart family, with son and CEO Adam Stewart succeeding as chairman of Sandals Resorts International. Butch Stewart is survived by wife Cheryl and children Brian, Bobby, Adam, Jaime, Sabrina, Gordon and Kelly, along with 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“Our father was a singular personality; an unstoppable force who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations and whose passion for his family was matched only by the people and possibility of the Caribbean, for whom he was a fierce champion,” Adam Stewart said. “Nothing, except maybe a great fishing day, could come before family to my dad. And while the world understood him to be a phenomenal businessman — which he was — his first and most important devotion was always to us. We will miss him terribly forever.”
“Gordon Butch Stewart has made an indelible mark," added Edmund Bartlett, the tourism minister of Jamaica. "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 that small island states such as Jamaica can make on global scenes, irrespective of their areas of involvement. I think that we can look back on his life and times and draw inspiration from the success that he has had. But I think, most importantly, we can be inspired by his resilience and the fact that he has started from nowhere, and has ended up as being one of the most celebrated human beings that Jamaica has produced in the last century."
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The DetailsSandals Resorts Internationalwww.sandals.com