SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Gordon “Butch” Stewart, a Jamaican hotelier who founded Sandals Resorts International, has died. He was 79.
The Kingston-born businessman who enjoyed playing dominoes and began selling freshly caught fish at age 12 owned at least two dozen companies and was Jamaica’s largest non-government employer, according to a press release issued Tuesday by Sandals International. No cause of death was given.
Stewart founded the first Sandals resort in the 1980s in Montego Bay, an operation that now includes more than 12 properties across the Caribbean. He was working on expansions in St. Vincent and the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao before his death, officials said. Stewart also previously served as a longtime director of the Jamaica Tourist Board and oversaw the expansion of the now-defunct Air Jamaica.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he was mourning one of the island’s most “brilliant, innovative and transformative business minds,” while the Miami-based Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association called Stewart a Caribbean tourism icon.
He is survived by his wife, seven children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.