Profile of a Black Billionaire: Mr. Michael Lee-Chin

17 Apr

Ray: People often ask why am I obsessed with money and being rich. I simply reply that I’m not obsessed with money, but I am obsessed with freedom and the ability to pursue my passions in life (which are many). In my opinion, having wealth is the best way to do so.

People also ask why I focus a great deal of my writings on issues that affect the Black community. Well, first of all, I am much more familiar with issues that affect the Black community so it’s easier for me to have an opinion on these issues. Because I know that the Black community suffers from many insecurity complexes, I like to highlight those Black people in the world who have risen above the fray to become outstanding individuals. By doing so, I hope to show others in the Black community that there are other ways of “making it” besides playing ball, becoming an entertainer, or selling drugs.

With that said, I decided to write about someone that I have admired for several years now. I would like to introduce everyone to Mr. Michael Lee-Chin. Enjoy…

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Michael Lee-Chin was born in Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica in 1951, with a biracial background of Chinese-Jamaican heritage. He was raised by his mother and step-father along with 8 other siblings. His mother Gloria, sold Avon products and worked as a bookkeeper while his step-father Vincent Chen, managed a local grocery store.

After finishing high school, Michael Lee-Chin left Jamaica to attend McMaster University in Canada. While in college, he earned money by working on cruise ships and at an aluminum plant. Despite his attempt to make money, he was not able to afford his college tuition. To make matters worse, his parents were unable to provide the financial support that he needed to stay in school. Facing the end of his college career, he decided to seek assistance from the Jamaican Government.

“From an early age, my mother told me that there were so many of us that if I was to get anything in life, I would have to get it myself. So I did.” - Michael Lee-Chin

A self-determined young fellow, Mr. Lee-Chin was prompted to use his savings to fly back to Jamaica and convince then Prime Minister Hugh Shearer to sponsor his Canadian education. Through his own determination and the willingness of the Jamaican Government to invest in the future of one its young people, Mr. Lee-Chin was able to return to McMaster University after securing a C$15,000 scholarship to pay for his education.

Michael Lee-Chin graduated with a degree in civil engineering and returned to Jamaica to work on highway infrastructure projects. Unsatisfied with his future prospects, Mr. Lee-Chin decided to move to Toronto where he accepted a job as a bar bouncer. Although the pay was lousy by anyone’s standards, he was fortunate to meet a mutual fund salesman from the Investor’s Group. After learning about the earnings potential of being a mutual fund salesman, Mr. lee-Chin soon after applied to Investor’s Group, a move that would change his life forever.

While spending time at Investor’s Group and eventually Regal Capital Planning, he studied financial markets and investment strategies; particularly those of Warren Buffet, Benjamin Graham, and Kenneth Thomson. In 1983, (the year of my birth :), Mr. Lee-Chin secured a C$500,000 loan from the Continental Bank of Canada and invested it into the Mackenzie Financial Group at C$1.00 per share. In 5 years, that investment became worth C$3.5 Million.

This newfound wealth would allow him to establish the Berkshire Group, a financial services company, in 1985. In 1987, he purchased Advancement Investment Company (AIC) for $200,000 although the company had holdings of about C$800,000 at that time. Today, AIC controls about C$12Billion and has about one million investors. Among many of his other investments, Mr. Lee-Chin used AIC to purchase 75 percent of the Commercial Bank of Jamaica for $127 Million (USD) from the Jamaican Government as a response to Jamaica’s financial crisis during the 1990s.

Mr. Lee-Chin is also a noteworthy philanthropist. In 2008, he donated J$108 Million (about 1.48 Million USD) to Seventh-day Adventist owned and operated Northern Caribbean University. Mr. Lee-Chin also donated C$30 Million to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for the construction of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

Forbes currently lists Michael Lee-Chin as #677 of the richest people in the world with an estimated net worth of $1.8 Billion USD. He has received many awards for his outstanding leadership in business, including the ‘Harry Jerome Award’ for ‘Business Leader of the Decade’ in 2002. He continues to invest heavily in Jamaica and in other Caribbean Islands, buying assets from real estate to communications infrastructure. At age 57, he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Michael Lee-Chin is someone that I look up to and hope to have the privilege to meet with one day, hopefully to discuss a business deal. He exemplifies hard work and the sense of “never forgetting where you come from.” I hope that this piece inspires others to achieve greatness just as Mr. Lee-Chin has. Anything is possible if you have faith, determination, and a plan.

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at ROM

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13 Responses to “Profile of a Black Billionaire: Mr. Michael Lee-Chin”

  1. Anonymous May 29, 2008 at 8:56 am #

    Why is he a “black” billionaire? Why not Jamaican? Why not biracial? He’s just as much Chinese as he is black. It can’t be a reflection of his skin color because there are many dark-skinned asians. If society chooses for him to be black, is it because we as a whole are surprised that a “black” man has reached such fortune, or is it because we actually want the “black” man to succeed? And why wouldn’t we feel the same about a Chinese man in this country?

  2. sethandray May 29, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    Well, I called him Black because he’s Black. Jamaican is a nationality, not a “race”. I agree with you that he is also very much so Chinese (once again in “race”, not nationality), but I’d be lying to myself and to the world if I said that he is perceived as anything other than a Black man.

    Yes society is surprised that a Black man can reach such financial status just as society is surprised that a Black man could have a chance to win the Presidency of the United States.

    I don’t think we would feel the same way about a Chinese man in this country because Chinese men weren’t slaves in this country. You can’t possibly ignore that connection and the significance of Blacks rising to any level of prominence here. I’m not saying it’s an ideal scenario, but the fact of the matter is, Blacks haven’t been leaders of Western society in this way ever. This is new territory for Blacks (no matter where they’re from) and I choose to acknowledge it for what it is.

    I appreciate your point of view and I welcome any other thoughts that you might have.

    Thanks

    -Ray

    • Anonymous October 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

      He is not black. Two persons of different race CANNOT give you black.

  3. BlogtroIL June 23, 2008 at 9:57 pm #

    While stumbling upon a blog by what i believe to be a young intelligent brother is refreshing (there i go doing what youre doing…were human)…you sound a tad Cosby-ish in this blog…you might not find this to be problematic, but its rampant in our community that once we get some schooling and make our meteoric rise to a higher tax bracket, we become condescending and judgmental and the good we could do is negated when we start speaking our message at people instead of to people and theres a difference… because your “hope to show others in the Black community that there are other ways of “making it” besides playing ball, becoming an entertainer, or selling drugs” is admirable, but tainted by your elitist delivery…i mean who above 12yrs old doesnt know this? Now, whether it is a reality or the chosen path to many of us who are systematically from sub-standard schools, homes, communities is another story……and all of this and i still havent read up on the black millionaire dude ive never heard of…dont keep the youth from the msg by tainting it man…otherwise good stuff….

  4. sethandray June 24, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    Me, sounding Cosby-ish? I’m blushing. But seriously, thanks for visiting the site.

    In response to your remarks, I deal with young people all the time who glorify entertainers and the images they portray. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the way young people choose to dress, speak, and conduct themselves socially. There is obviously a major influence on black youth from the hip-hop culture.

    It is easier for a 7th grader to quote a Lil Wayne verse than it is for them to tell me what Warren Buffet thinks about saving money. Given the historical trends of Blacks in this country, I’d say that we need to keep pushing examples of outstanding people who rose to great success without picking up a microphone or a basketball. Kids are bombarded with tons of that kind of information anyways. I choose to present alternatives to the main stream norm.

    Michael Lee-Chin is a great example for young people. And if presenting his drive, positive energy, work ethic, and boldness as something to appreciate gives off an appearance of elitism, then I hope that all of the youths in this country strive to be elite themselves.

  5. sethandray June 24, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    Let me interject… Recently I was watching the local news (which I usually try to avoid) but they were conducting an interesting, non-scientific survey on the effect of the nomination of a black man winning a major party’s nomination. One young man (maybe 12, no older) said that as a result, he now wanted to be president when he grew up. I don’t remember if the reported asked or if he volunteered the info, but he said his first and second runner up choices were football and basketball player. Thus said, if images of Obama on TV and feeling the excitement a large part of the Black community has about this man, imagine what financially educated and a higher appreciation of intellect within this same community will do for the aspirations of our youth!

    -Seth

  6. Terran Higgs July 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    Check out my website

  7. Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 3:37 pm #

    I agree with the first comment, with respect to the individual who posted this piece of course. I am Jamaican and I think “Jamaican Billionaire” would have been a better title, than “Black Billionaire”
    Caribbean and African cultures are significantly different from that of African Americans. In the Caribbean especially, there are a variety of races, people speak multiple languages etc. Because of that it is very difficult and unfair for us to generalize, for instance you wouldn’t find many Jamaicans that would call, say Alicia Keys black, she’s mixed, we acknowledge every aspect of a person whether the western world does it or not.

    Jamaica, though predominantly black is a melting pot of different races, and at times we don’t even notice that our best friend in high school is Chinese, Indian or White and vice versa until we are brought out of our element and made to observe our surroundings.

    Now, we love our race, we love being the descendants or strong Africans that fought for our freedom, but there were also other races involved in building our country, Michael Lee Chin is Black and Chinese, Jamaicans recognize him as such, maybe when you come to America people might just call him black, but where I am from we do not ignore any aspect of a person because “society” does so.

    I myself am Black and Chinese, my parents have been equally supportive, hardworking, loving and encouraging and I will not identify with one race more than the other and would not want anyone else to refer to me more by one race. Multiracial people have enough problems identifying with their different races as is and don’t need others defining them racially. You say that society sees him as Black, obviously so do you, so you are not helping the problem by following society.

    Last point: You also said that the Chinese were not slaves in America. There were however, many Chinese forced to leave their countries and brought to the Caribbean (of course not as harshly as Africans) but the history of races in the Caribbean is not as different as it is in the United States so the same rules do not apply.

    Again I have much respect for you and this article, just wanted to state the opinion of myself and I’m sure of many other Jamaicans.

    Thanks for your time

    • Sham March 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

      As a person of Jamaican Afro-Chinese decent living in Britain, I totally agree with you.

  8. Delroy Brown July 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Well said “Anonymous”…

  9. skulls January 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    How pathetic. Who cares anyways. It is statement that reflects how sick the society is that we live in. A man is a success because he has alot of money? The bible says that a rich man is one who has knowledge not material gain. It is analogous to idolatry. This is an indication of how twisted the world is that we live in….who care about his colour or racial background. He is still caught up in a materialistic world which weighs success in how much money one has in the bank. Truly pathetic. And the Chin Ontario museum add on is ugly and incongruous. Who cares?

  10. iesha January 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    mmmhhh…very nice.i wasn’t aware that there were Chinese immigrants living in Jamaica until, i saw Naomi Campbell talking about her great grandmother,who was Chinese.she also stated that there were plenty of them living there.that kinda sparked my interest because when you here about Jamaica, you just hear about the blacks, and some bi-racials,like Sean Paul.but other then that,no.i would like to see and hear more about the mixed people and the Chinese living there. as for the people getting mad over the fact that this man, identifies himself as being black or for this article calling him just that, please understand that’s just how some people who are part black see themselves.that doesn’t mean they don’t love themselves or the other race that flows through their veins,it just means they understand that half of them better.some people like Paula Patton,Theida newton, and Alicia keys are bi-racial, but were raised as black women.even to this day,all 3 would tell you that they are black women.other then that,nice article,(even though i only browsed,through it) we need to hear more about black people like him in the media.not just athletes,rappers,singers or overall sex icons,but positive,respectful,doing something with my life black role models.

  11. cornelius (@zozimos) September 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Not just Chinese. The Hakka (model minority of the Chinese) claim him as one of theirs. ::-)

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