Michael Lee-Chin, President and Chairman of Portland Holdings Limited, 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 the stock appreciated seven-fold. 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 – held more than $15 billion in assets under management. In September 2009, AIC’s retail investment fund business was sold to Manulife. Today, Michael remains firmly committed to creating wealth for investors as Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Portland Investment Counsel Inc., an investment manager and exempt market dealer.
As the founder of Portland, Michael’s business accomplishments span various countries and numerous sectors.
At the helm, Michael has established an investment philosophy and guiding principles for each of the companies under Portland. Although some companies may not have possessed strong balance sheets or a guiding framework prior to acquisition by Portland, it has been under Michael’s stewardship that each of these 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 in assets under administration by 2007. At that time, Berkshire had grown to form a network of 750 financial advisors operating in 250 offices across Canada. In 2007, Manulife acquired the Berkshire Group of Companies.
In 2002, Portland’s interests expanded internationally with the acquisition of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited and its subsidiaries. Since becoming part of the Portland group, NCB’s after-tax profits have increased from US$6 million (2001) to US$106 million (2014). NCB today stands as Jamaica’s largest financial services provider with over 40 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 2011, The Banker Magazine, a publication of Financial Times in London, ranked NCB 3rd in the world for return on capital in its survey of “Top 1,000 Banks” making NCB among the world’s premiere lending institutions. Also important is the bank’s reputation as a leader in corporate citizenship. Since 2003, the Bank, through its philanthropic arm, the N.C.B. Foundation, has provided financial support to over 60,000 students.
In 2005, Portland partnered with Risley Group to form Columbus Communications Ltd. 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 provided by the network (wholesale). Columbus operates in 22 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. In 2015 Cable & Wireless Communications, Plc acquired Columbus.
In the tourism sector, Michael has guided Portland through a number of acquisitions in the Caribbean. Among them, the Trident Villas and Spa, Reggae Beach and Blue Lagoon in Jamaica.
In 2007, Michael and the Portland Private Equity team created a US$225 million private equity fund focusing on investments in the Caribbean Region. Investors in the AIC Caribbean Fund include a division of the United States Government, the pension plan program of a multi national corporation, a fund of funds representing clients such as New York state common retirement fund, European Investment Bank and Export Development Canada. In July 2014, Michael and the Private Equity team launched a second private equity fund, Portland Caribbean Fund II, with an initial close of US$100 million. The Fund is focused on making growth equity investments in high quality scalable businesses as well as transactions in the infrastructure and essential asset sectors in the Caribbean Basin.
Under Michael’s stewardship, Portland currently owns a collection of diversified businesses, operating in sectors that include financial services, consumer goods, waste management, tourism and media.
In 2012 through Mandeville Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Portland Holdings, Michael started assembling a diversified group of wealth management companies that includes: Mandeville Private Client Inc. (an investment dealer), Mandeville Wealth Services Inc. (a mutual fund and exempt market dealer) and Mandeville Insurance Services Inc. (life insurance).
Wallenford Limited, a subsidiary of Portland Holdings, began the process of acquiring Wallenford Coffee Company in 2013 from the Jamaican Government. Wallenford historically has been the largest cultivator of Jamaica Blue Mountain and Jamaica High Mountain coffee.
Portland is committed to “Building Strong Indigenous Businesses”. 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.
Among his many personal accomplishments, in October 2008, Michael was awarded one of Jamaica’s highest national honours; the Order of Jamaica for his significant contributions in business and philanthropy. Michael has received Doctor of Laws degrees from a number of distinguished universities including: McMaster University, University of Toronto, Northern Caribbean University, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of the West Indies and York University. In October 2011, Michael was appointed Chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University and was reappointed for a second term in 2015. On April 27, 2016, Michael was appointed Chair of the Government of Jamaica’s newly established Economic Growth Council (“EGC”). In an effort to bolster economic development, Michael is tasked with leading a team from the private and public sectors, to advise the Government of Jamaica on the adoption of a framework of growth initiatives.