Caribbean Legend “Butch” Stewart Dies at 79

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Gordon Arthur Cyril Stewart was born on July 6, 1941, the first child of Jean Patricia nee Rerrie and Gordon Leslie Stewart, at Nuttall Memorial Hospital near Cross Roads in Kingston, Jamaica.

By the age of 10 “Butch” was already ‘hustling’ to make money. He had a love for the sea and eventually bought a boat which he used to catch fish and then sell to the hotels where he met many prominent personalities. He was the quintessential salesman, buying old cars to be repaired and then resold – for a profit of course.

In 1981, he bought his first hotel in Montego Bay, rebranded it Sandals and set a gold standard which, even today, is synonymous with exquisite hotel accommodations which the hotel industry aspires to meet.

He also bought and sold appliances like air conditioners, hair dryers, and even furniture as his journey to being one of the greatest hoteliers in the world, and operating one of the most recognizable brand names ever, continued forging ahead. The Sandals brand eventually became synonymous with luxury, love, and exotic locations.

His business savvy and advertising genius made Sandals just about the most written about, talked about, blogged about, and imitated hotels in the world. Even in this Internet age Sandals was like a wild fire everywhere vacationers, families, friends, and those romantically involved browsed online. Hits to their ad placements and other advertising amounted hundreds of millions of hits every month.

The Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart

“Butch” Stewart and his Sandals brand, throughout the Caribbean, undoubtedly showed to the world this region’s remarkable destinations. With what can only be called a hotel and entertainment empire, he sold the islands to the world, like nobody’s business. His Sandals hotels set the bar for tourism in the region, sparing no expense or professionalism in making millions of tourists long to return. In fact it is on record the throngs of visitors who have returned time after time, year after year, to one hotel of the other throughout the Sandals chain of properties in the Caribbean.

His son Adam, who is deputy chairman of the ATL Group, said his father’s passing was “almost unbelievable”, since he was as involved and forward-thinking as ever. Speaking to the Jamaica Observer not too long after the passing of his father he further said, “My Dad lived a big life – husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, entrepreneur, statesman, dreamer. A singular personality and an unstoppable force who reveled in defying the odds, 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.

Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart (seated in front with plaque) is surrounded by children, grandchildren, his sister, Patricia Stewart-Hawryluk, daughter-in-law, Jill and wife Cheryl (extreme right)

“There will never be another quite like him and we will miss him forever.”

On his Facebook page today, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet wrote, “Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was never an ordinary man. He dreamed big, he thought big, he acted big. He was a visionary, a pioneer and a trailblazer. His son Adam described him as a ‘superhero’ and I concur because what he did for this region as a whole and for the islands in which he invested was transformative.”

Chastanet further said, “Many working directly and indirectly in tourism may not attribute their careers to him, but they most certainly have benefited from all that he did to develop the industry.” He also characterized Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart as “a marketing and branding genius.”

In 2001 he received the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from The University of the West Indies and then from the University of Technology, Jamaica in 2009.

In 1992, Stewart was presented with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Jamaica/America Society, and Ernst & Young saw it fit to name him Master Entrepreneur of the decade of the 90s.

(L-R) Adam Stewart, Andrew Holness (PM of Jamaica), Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, Allen Chastanet (PM of St. Lucia), Ed Bartlett (Jamaica Minister of Tourism)
(L-R) Adam Stewart, Andrew Holness (PM of Jamaica), Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Allen Chastanet (PM of St. Lucia), Ed Bartlett (Jamaica Minister of Tourism)

But what made “Butch” Stewart even larger than life was the relationship he established with his staff throughout the Caribbean. His penchant for professionalism saw him invest in the education of his staffs in all aspects of hotel and accommodation business. Bartenders, waiters, managers, accountants, and every other imaginable  occupation, all benefited from the Sandals ‘University’ training – all vital to maintaining the Sandals world-renowned standards.

“Butch” Stewart was also on the board of the Sandals Foundation, a non-profit organization launched in March 2009 to help Sandals Resorts International continue to make a difference in the Caribbean. His philanthropy through the Foundation speaks volumes of his dedication to the people of the Caribbean.

In what can only be called an ‘Empire’, Sandals Resorts International boasts 16 resorts in the Caribbean with a total of 10,000+ employees. Of those, close to 2,000 are employed in Saint Lucia at the Sandals La Toc, Sandals Halcyon, and Sandals Grande.

 

Sandals Resorts properties include:

  • Sandals Montego Bay
  • Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island
  • Sandals Ochi Beach Resort; (formerly Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort)
  • Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa
  • Sandals South Coast (formerly Whitehouse European Village & Spa)
  • Sandals Royal Plantation Ocho Rios, Jamaica
  • Sandals Inn Montego Bay (formerly Sandals Carlyle), Jamaica
  • Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort
  • Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa in St. Lucia
  • Sandals Halcyon St. Lucia
  • Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
  • Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island
  • Sandals Emerald Bay Great Exuma, Bahamas
  • Sandals Barbados Resort & Spa
  • Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa Grenada
  • Sandals Royal Barbados Resort & Spa

Stewart was founder of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, and their parent company Sandals Resorts International, as well as The ATL Group and The Jamaica Observer.

He passed away on Monday January 4, 2021 in Miami where he had been ailing.

Hon. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, OJ, CD, Hon. LLD

Born: July 6, 1941 – Died: January 4, 2021 Age: 79

He is survived by his wife, seven children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

 

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