If he had known anything about the hotel business, Butch Stewart said, he might never have bought the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
At the time of his purchase in 1981, the waterfront hotel was dilapidated and stood near the end of an airport runway. The roar of jet engines frequently interrupted the guests’ tropical idylls.
Mr. Stewart renovated the building, invested in king-size beds and introduced a couples-only policy with room, food and tips included in a single price. His aim was to create a more luxurious version of Club Med. Airport noise became part of the package: Every time a jet took off, the guests were encouraged to wave their arms and kiss their partners. After 18 months of losses, the hotel began to thrive.
Mr. Stewart, who died of cancer Jan. 4 at the age of 79, went on to create a chain of Caribbean resorts under brands including Sandals and Beaches. Among the amenities are butlers and swim-up bars in the pools.
The family business empire—now led by one of his sons, Adam Stewart—includes 23 resorts in eight countries as well as the Jamaica Observer newspaper, radio stations, car dealerships and distributors of home appliances and computers. Those family businesses employ a total of about 15,000 people.
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