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…
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 at ROM