Obituary: Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, Sandals founder and all-inclusive visionary

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Gordon "Butch" Stewart.
Gordon "Butch" Stewart.

Gordon "Butch" Stewart, the founder of Sandals Resorts, which grew from a single property in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to an all-inclusive powerhouse and iconic brand name in the Caribbean, has died. He was 79.

Butch Stewart in an undated photo.
Butch Stewart in an undated photo. Photo Credit: Sandals

Tributes poured in for Stewart, who Jamaica's prime minister called one of the country's "most brilliant, innovative and transformative business minds."

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In addition to the Sandals Resorts International portfolio, which spans more than 20 resorts across the Caribbean, with more in the works, Stewart was founder and chairman of Jamaica-based automotive and appliance distributor ATL Group. 

"While he never laid claim to inventing the all-inclusive concept, he is recognized worldwide for his tireless effort to elevate the vacation experience, delivering to his guests an unsurpassed level of luxury, and to share his certainty that a Caribbean company could successfully compete with any organization in the world. He accomplished both," said Sandals in a statement.

At the time of his death, he was working on plans for the recently announced expansions to Curacao and St. Vincent.

The company, Sandals Resorts International, built by Stewart is owned by and remains within the Stewart family who, in honor of his succession plans, has named son Adam Stewart chairman, extending his leadership of the brands since he was named CEO in 2007, according to Sandals.

In a company memo, Adam Stewart said the news of his father's death after a "very recent health diagnosis" was "almost unbelievable." 

"My Dad lived a big life: husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, entrepreneur, statesman, dreamer," said Adam Stewart. "A singular personality and an unstoppable force who reveled in defying the odds, 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."

Adam Stewart wrote that his father had chosen to keep his health diagnosis private, "and we respected that wish."

Born in 1941 in Kingston, Jamaica, Butch Stewart founded Sandals Resorts in 1981 with the opening of Sandals Montego Bay. In 1997, the company branched out with the debut of its Beaches offshoot, opening the Beaches Negril.

The Sandals portfolio also includes the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort brand, Fowl Cay Resort in the Bahamas and the Your Jamaican Villas private home collection.

Stewart is survived by his wife Cheryl; children Brian, Bobby, Adam, Jaime, Sabrina, Gordon and Kelly; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A private funeral service will be held. Those wishing to share memories, condolences or personal stories may do so at [email protected]

This report was updated at 12:20 p.m. with new information throughout.

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