Butch Stewart had a comfortable middle-class childhood on Jamaica's Honeymoon Bay, so his story doesn't qualify as a rags-to-riches tale. But he most certainly went "to riches."
Stewart began his career at the Dutch-owned Curacao Trading Company, where he earned enough in five years as a sales manager to open his own air-conditioner service and distribution business in 1968. That company, Appliance Traders Ltd., expanded rapidly and now sells a wide assortment of household and commercial appliances and supplies.
But Stewart was just getting started. In 1981, he bought the Montego Bay property that launched his wildly successful couples-only Sandals Resorts chain. And today, he oversees a billion-dollar, 9,000-employee Empire that includes 12 Sandals Resorts, six other high-end Caribbean vacation properties, Appliance Traders and a leading Jamaican daily newspaper. All together he owns and operates two dozen companies that collectively constitute his country's largest private-sector group, biggest foreign-exchange earner and largest nongovernment employer.
As Stewart explained in our interview, private aviation helped him achieve his remarkable string of successes. But after talking with him in New York City recently, we suspect that his ultra-upbeat demeanor deserves some credit, too. True, he had a few negative things to say about the Jamaican government and about the newspaper that competes with his, but a smile rarely left his face as he discussed his resorts and career and told us how much fun he is having.
He even praised New York's weather-which on the day we met featured a cold, drenching and windswept rain. When we commented that he probably hadn't left the Caribbean mainly to experience conditions like this, he replied in his thick Jamaican accent, "Oh, I love this weather. If it would snow later on, it'd be all the better."