Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Founder of Sandals Resorts, Dies at 79


But he was itching to start his own business, the family declaration said, and he seized an opportunity in 1968 when he saw the appeal of air conditioning for people living in an island climate. He started his first company, Appliance Traders Ltd., after starting Fedders Corp. from Edison, New Jersey, to represent the brand in Jamaica.

From there, Mr. Stewart developed his overall business philosophy: “Find out what people want, give it to them, and exceed their expectations in the process,” says the family statement. Adam Stewart initially said this included being ready to install air conditioners for his customers at any time of the day or night.

“He did whatever it took,” said Adam Stewart.

Mr. Stewart’s work with the Sandals and Beaches resorts has resulted in leadership roles in the Jamaica tourism industry, including a decade as director of the Jamaica Tourist Board. In 1992, his Butch Stewart initiative pumped $ 1 million a week into the foreign exchange market to halt the decline in the Jamaican dollar.

In 1994, he led a group of investors who took control of Air Jamaica, the Caribbean’s largest regional airline. He put together an investment group that paid $ 37.5 million for 70 percent of the airline and gave itself a 46 percent stake.

The move was the kind of grand public gesture that Mr Stewart had become famous for, according to the New York Times in an article about the move.

At the helm of the troubled national airline, Mr. Stewart began adding routes and improving service. As part of the turnaround, he increased the airline’s turnover and gained market share from competitors.

“One thing you have to give Butch Stewart is he’ll try anything to make the company work,” Peter J. Dolara, then senior vice president of American Airlines, told The Times. “The man is a fierce competitor.”