Michael Lee-Chin, Chairman, Portland Holdings Inc., is widely regarded as a visionary entrepreneur whose philosophy of “doing well and doing good” has resulted in phenomenal success and inspiring philanthropic initiatives.
Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1951, Michael immigrated to Canada in 1970 to study civil engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. After beginning post‑graduate studies, Michael decided to explore career opportunities within the mutual fund industry. At the age of 26, Michael became a financial advisor and, with growing success, progressed to the position of branch manager.
In 1983, at the age of 32, Michael borrowed money to purchase $500,000 of Mackenzie Financial stock. After four years, this stock appreciated seven-fold, and Michael used the profits to make his first acquisition, a small Ontario-based investment firm called AIC Limited. At that time, Advantage Investment Counsel (a division of AIC Limited) had assets under management of just $800,000. Within 20 years, AIC grew from less than $1 million and – at its business peak – posted more than $15 billion in assets under management. In September 2009, AIC’s retail investment fund business was sold to Manulife Financial. However, Michael and his team continue to sub-advise the flagship Advantage Series of funds for Manulife through Portland Investment Counsel. Michael has managed the Advantage Fund since inception.
As the founder of Portland Holdings Inc., Michael Lee-Chin’s business accomplishments span various countries and numerous sectors.
At the helm, Michael established an investment philosophy and guiding principles for each of the Portland group of companies. Although some companies may not have possessed strong balance sheets or a guiding framework prior to acquisition or establishment by Portland, it has been under Michael’s stewardship that each of the Portland group of companies has come to display the following attributes:
• Solid returns on equity;
• Positioned in a long-term growth industry;
• Entrepreneurial, competitive and hard-working management;
• Potential to be a global leader;
• Possessing competitive advantages (for example, brands, relationship networks, licenses, etc.); and
• Possessing quality tangible assets.
Following the acquisition of AIC Limited in 1987, Michael set about developing the Berkshire group of companies – comprising an investment planning arm, a securities dealership, and an insurance services operation. Under Michael’s stewardship, Berkshire was able to amass more than $12 billion of assets under administration by 2007. At that time, Berkshire had also grown to form a network of 750 financial advisors operating in 250 offices across Canada. In 2007, Manulife acquired Berkshire from Portland Holdings in exchange for shares, making Portland one of the most significant shareholders of Manulife. In 2002, Portland’s interests expanded internationally with the acquisition of National Commercial Bank (NCB) Jamaica Ltd. and its subsidiaries. Since becoming part of the Portland group, NCB profits have increased to approximately US$130 million from US$6 million. NCB today stands as Jamaica’s largest bank with 45 branches, 2,400 employees, and offices
in the Caymans and the United Kingdom. NCB was awarded the Latin Finance 2007 Bank of the Year Award.
In April 2006, Portland acquired an 85% controlling stake in the United General Insurance Company, the largest auto insurer in Jamaica, and renamed the firm Advantage General Insurance Company. A controlling interest in CVM Communications Group (consisting of radio and television stations and newspapers) was purchased at the same time.
In 2005, Portland partnered with Risley Group to form Columbus Communications Ltd. – a Barbadian corporation that holds controlling interest in a number of telecommunications providers in the Caribbean including Cable Bahamas Ltd., Caribbean Crossing Ltd., Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited (operating under the name Flow America), Fibralink Jamaica Limited, and Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited (operating under the name Flow Trinidad).
Columbus is a diversified telecommunications company whose core operating business is providing cable television services, high speed internet access, digital telephone and internet infrastructure services (retail) and, the development of an undersea fiber optic cable network as well as the sale and lease of the telecom capacity provide by the network (wholesale). It operates in 21 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
In the tourism sector, Michael has guided Portland through a number of acquisitions in the Caribbean. Among them, the Trident Villas and Spa in Jamaica, Reggae Beach and Blue Lagoon.
The first Portland acquisition in the health care industry sector was announced by Michael in July 2006, when Medical Associates Limited, a privately held hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, joined the Portland group.
Portland also runs a Private Equity Fund focused on investing in the Caribbean region; clients include OPIC; a division of the US government, European Investment Bank (EIB), Verizon pension fund and Export Development Canada (EDC).
Under Michael’s stewardship, Portland Holdings Inc. today owns a collection of diversified businesses, operating in sectors that include financial services, telecommunications, tourism, media and health care.
Over the years, Michael’s vision for sustainable growth for Portland Holdings Inc. is anchored in two principles. First, Portland will invest in businesses that are economically substantial and provide exceptional products and services into the marketplace. And, equally important, these businesses must also seek to improve the social well‑being of the communities in which they operate. Michael formally established as the Portland mantra – “prosperitas cum caritate” – which in Latin speaks to his goal that businesses must “not only do well, but also do good” – that is the measure of success.
In 2008, Michael Lee-Chin received one of Jamaica’s highest national honours – The Order of Jamaica, for his significant contributions to business and philanthropy.