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Kingsley Cooper to step down as Pulse CEO, daughter Safia in line for succession

Published:Friday | November 6, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Kingsley Cooper and his daughter, Safia Cooper.

For three years, Kingsley Cooper has been grooming his daughter to run the family business and now impeccable sources say he is ready to hand over the reins.

Safia Cooper is tapped to become CEO of Pulse Investments Limited in 2016, a pioneer modelling agency that was the first to put Jamaicans on the world fashion stage and is the largest operation of its kind in the Caribbean.

Kingsley will not be exiting the company entirely. He will remain as chairman of Pulse while Safia runs the show, the Financial Gleaner has learnt.

The Pulse chairman and CEO declined to comment on the pending succession saying such disclosures have to conform to market rules. But our sources say he has taken note of the continuing evolving trend in new media and believes it is time for a fresh leader better suited to tap into a younger demographic.

Safia will ascend to the position having initially honed her marketing and managerial skills at Red Stripe Jamaica, where she worked for a decade and was exposed to other regional markets of Diageo Plc, then the parent company for Red Stripe. She joined her father at Pulse in 2012 as director of sales and marketing and continues to hold that position.

Since 1980, Cooper has built his modelling business, later extending it to incorporate an annual fashion show called Caribbean Week to showcase regional designers and give added exposure to his models. The business also has an hospitality arm, which encapsulates its Villa Ronai operation in the hills of St Andrew.

Cooper is currently running a profitable outfit, which delivered annual net income of $209 million at year ending June 2015 from $326 million of revenue. Last year, the company made $165 million profit from $259 million of revenue.

The boost in top line income was supported by "new revenues coming from Europe to reflect the new international models now placed in those markets, as well as the continued success of established stars," Cooper said.

Pulse is a "recognised motion picture producer" under the Motion Picture Industry (Encouragement) Act and as such was exempt from taxes on its profit. However, the law was repealed last year and the fashion and entertainment company will be subject to corporate taxes once its current exemption period rolls off in its next financial year 2015/16.

In the past few years, much of the company's capital has gone into redevelopment and expansion of Villa Ronai Spa and Suites located at Stony Hill, its latest venture being a 9,000 square foot meeting hall called The Refuge. Complete with furnishings, two lounges, meeting rooms and other function areas, it cost the company $108 million, with construction lasting roughly two years, Cooper told the Financial Gleaner.

The value of Pulse's investment properties grew marginally to $1.2 billion from $1.1 billion in 2014 as a result.

Despite receiving consent from shareholders earlier this year to offload Villa Ronai and the company's Pulse Centre at 38A Trafalgar Road in Kingston, which Cooper said at the time the company had no immediate plans to do, Pulse is moving ahead with its next big project developing a set of town houses and suites on a section of the nine-acre property.

The town houses and suites won't be rolled out on a set time line, but will be tackled as capital becomes available.

Cooper will retire as CEO by early next year but wants to advance the project as much as possible before he steps aside, our sources say.

Pulse plans to add 48 suites at Villa Ronai while eight town houses are to built in the valley on either side of the sloping property. The suites have been approved for construction and are in the preliminary stages of development, Cooper said.

Aimed at Pulse's "high net worth" - another term for rich - clients, Cooper said the suites and town houses will provide "an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and tranquillity of Villa Ronai as well as the special art filled gardens and lush topography that are hallmarks of the property."

Pulse has owned the property for over 20 years, which got its name from the Ronai family who originally developed the estate when they first came to Jamaica from Hungary in the middle of the last century.

Financing for the town houses and suites will come from "equity and internally generated cash" instead of bank debt, Cooper said, while emphasising that the company will take its time to complete the projects.

Cooper said the company plans to address "the issue of dividend payments to shareholders."

"While they had been patient so far, allowing funds to be used for development, shareholders were now expecting cash returns," he said.

Safia Cooper did not return calls for comment.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com