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Gordon “Butch” Stewart (1941–2021), founder of Sandals and Beaches resorts

by Linnea Crowther

Gordon “Butch” Stewart was a Jamaican businessman who founded the popular all-inclusive resort chains Sandals and Beaches.

Lifelong entrepreneur

Stewart was an entrepreneur from a young age as he grew up in Jamaica, buying a canoe at age 12 and using it to catch fish, which he sold. He later used his earnings to buy a larger boat, then beginning a business of ferrying rich tourists from their yachts to the shore and back. This young work ethic continued after Stewart attended college in England: He founded the business Appliance Traders, Ltd., selling air conditioners and other appliances, and eventually founded the Sandals resort chain in 1981. He was the company’s longtime owner and chairman as well as its founder.

Sandals was one of the first all-inclusive resorts, and it was the first in the Caribbean to feature a swim-up bar. With Sandals reserved for couples only, Stewart later founded Beaches Resorts, catering to families. Sandals received criticism for its longstanding policy of excluding LGBTQ couples, which wasn’t lifted until 2004. In 1994, Stewart bought a majority stake in Air Jamaica and became the airline’s chairman. He was also the founder of the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

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Stewart on growing up in Jamaica

“I had a great childhood, one of the best. When you grow up by the sea, you do a lot of fishing and swimming. You do what comes naturally. And the communities I grew up in were so protective; everybody looked after everybody. I think it does an enormous amount for you later in life. It allows you to look after yourself. It allows you to be protective of others. It makes you realize that you’re no more special than the rest.” —from a 2008 interview with Business Jet Traveler

Tributes to Gordon “Butch” Stewart

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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