The world travel and holiday industry are still in mourning following the announcement of the death of one of the industry’s greatest figures. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, the founder and chair of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), died in Miami, in the United States, after suffering from an undisclosed illness. A native of Jamaica, he is best known for creating his all-inclusive world-renowned Sandals Resorts International – which, in turn, ‘houses’ one of the pearls of his homeland, Sandals Resorts, as well as the equally loved and respected Beaches Resorts, Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts, Fowl Cay Resort as well as several private villas.
Stewart, who lived in Kingston and Montego Bay, initially bought two derelict hotels in Mo Bay, in 1981 before spending some $4 million in renovation and reopening it as the Sandals Resort Beach Club - later to be known as Sandals Montego Bay. It would become the first to popularise the sale of all-inclusive holidays in the Caribbean. And, as such Sandals Resorts was born. Many travel experts credit Sandals for making the all-inclusive market in the Caribbean as lucrative and successful as it has been.
Credited with several innovations in the hospitality industry, most notably building the Caribbean's first swim-up bar, at Sandals Montego Bay Resort, under his creative stewardship, the amiable Butch is responsible for resort development, and is now known for creating SRI properties throughout the Caribbean, which also includes; The Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, and most recently Barbados, and Grenada with sixteen Sandals Resorts, three Beaches Resorts, one Grand Pineapple Beach Resort, one Fowl Cay private island resort and four villa properties in Jamaica. A region-wide powerhouse, his brands include Sandals and Beaches.
Married to wife, Cheryl, he had eight children including; Brian Jardim, who sat on the board of The Jamaica Observer and was the owner of Rainforest Seafoods, daughter Jamie Stewart-McConnell co-founded the Orijin of Jamaica juice company, son Bobby held various leadership positions at Sandals including running the company's online division and UK operations, Adam was deputy chair of Sandals, CEO of The ATL Group and founded the Sandals Foundation while serving as CEO of Sandals Resorts from 2006 to 2012. Another one of his sons, Jonathan, was killed in a car crash in 1990. His younger three children include twins, Kelly and Gordon, and a daughter, Sabrina.
In a statement, Adam said: “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. Almost nothing, perhaps, 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.”
Despite his illness, Mr. Stewart had continued to work long hours until the end of his life, his son said. Only recently he (Butch) created the Sandals Refused, which was set up to refund patrons who were scheduled to arrive just as the resort shutdown due to the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic. Adam said his father’s death was related to a recent medical diagnosis that he kept private because he did not want to “be anyone else’s burden. He didn’t even want his closest friends to worry for him.”
Butch was 79 - Adam Stewart has since become chair of Sandals Resorts International.