NEW YORK -- Caribbean all-inclusive resort kingpin Gordon
"Butch" Stewart, along with his Air Jamaica Acquisition Group
(AJAG), has pulled out of Jamaican flag carrier Air Jamaica.
The government of Jamaica has assumed sole ownership and
management of the carrier, which accounts for 51% of air traffic
into the island; private partners, including AJAG, had controlled
about 78% of Air Jamaica stock.
All AJAG members of the board of directors and Air Jamaica
Holdings -- including chairman Stewart and chief executive and
deputy chairman Chris Zacca -- stepped down Dec. 23.
A new 10-member interim board appointed by the government to
serve through June 30 includes Paul Pennicook, executive director
of the Jamaica Tourist Board in Kingston.
In an internal memo to airline staff, Stewart said "ongoing
turbulence" in the airline industry had "imposed tremendous strain"
on AJAG resources for 10 years, rendering its continued involvement
But Jamaican minister of finance Omar Davies said Stewart -- who
financed most of the $27 million AJAG paid for a stake in Air
Jamaica in a 1994 privatization -- agreed to invest another $20
million in the struggling airline for working capital and to write
Davies also said the Jamaican government will back $25 million
in loans to Air Jamaica to finance restructuring, with an eye
toward attracting "equity capital from private investors."
The minister added that the government "has no desire to retain
permanent ownership and control of Air Jamaica."
Jamaican media reported that Air Jamaica has debts totaling $560
million and would require an additional $270 million in funding to
weather the next five years. At press time, neither Stewart nor
AJAG officials were available for further comment.
In a statement, Davies said there will be no disruptions in
service or operations at Air Jamaica in the wake of Stewarts
"I wish to reassure the country, the traveling public, the
airlines travel partners, the tourism sector and Air Jamaica staff
members that the administration is committed to a viable national
airline which will serve as a major catalyst for the economy," he
Meanwhile, Air Jamaica Vacations, a wholly owned subsidiary of
Air Jamaica, also remains unaffected by developments, according to
"All is status quo in terms of operations of both entities," he
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