Editorial | Rousseau leaves worthy legacy
Pat Rousseau is being deservedly eulogised for his achievements in law, business, and sports administration. Not surprisingly, what hasn’t received as much attention is his contribution to public service. Yet, it is the sphere in which he leaves among his most impactful legacies to Jamaica.
Mr Rousseau, who died on Tuesday night at age 85, was a commercial lawyer of distinction, who helped build the firm Myers Fletcher Gordon, which he joined in 1960, and served as managing partner for several years, turning it into one of the largest chambers in the English-speaking Caribbean.
He spearheaded many business ventures in Jamaica, including the launch, in 2002, with partners Chris Dehring and Oliver McIntosh, of SportsMax television, now owned by the telecoms company, Digicel. SportsMax broadcasts on cable television networks across the Caribbean.
Mr Rousseau’s entrepreneurial foray into sports broadcasting was likely to have been interpreted as an extension, of sorts, of his ventures in sports. In Jamaica, he was involved in horse racing at the level of ownership, breeding, and administration. He was also at the helm of West Indies cricket, whose management he made steps to modernise, while seeking to extract economic value from the game for the region.
He became president of the old West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) in 1996, and served for five years, during a period of tumultuous, and sometimes tempestuous, change for the sport of the region. The great, all-conquering team of the 1970s and ‘80s had begun to fade and their replacements, despite many of supreme talent, never became a unit that could win consistently.
At one level, there was dissension among members of the team, and at another, between team and administrators. There was, for example, the players strike in 1998, when Brian Lara’s team, despite the personal entreaties of Nelson Mandela, stayed in England, holding out for higher fees. They eventually proceeded to South Africa, but lost the series 5-0. Mr Rousseau and his deputy, Clarvis Joseph, also faced resistance to their attempts to hold managers accountable, including for their investment of the board’s money.
If those were the low points of Mr Rousseau’s stewardship of West Indies cricket, they were also part of a larger effort of transformation that included, after more than seven decades of its existence, the incorporation of the WICB and the dropping of the word ‘control’ from its name, as a signal of its transition from leadership by overlords.
There, too, was Mr Rousseau’s appointment of Mr Dehring, then a young investment banker, as the WICB’s marketing executive, and their partnership in devising the bid for the West Indies to host the Cricket World Cup of 2007, which was a catalyst for the construction of new cricket stadia and the upgrading of existing ones across the region. The tournament was an economic success.
TOO LITTLE KNOWN
With respect to Jamaica, Pat Rousseau’s contribution as a public servant is too little known, or perhaps what he was part of, and held to achieve, too little understood.
He led Michael Manley’s task force, which included negotiating giants such Mayer Matalon, technical experts like Dr Carlton Davis, diplomat Sir Edgerton Richardson, among others, who, in 1974, negotiated Jamaica’s bauxite production levy with transnational firms that mined bauxite and refined alumina in the island.
By taxing the companies on the basis of bauxite mined, Jamaica was able to combat the murky transfer-pricing regimes employed by the firms, to ensure that the country earned more from this finite resource. Since its inception, Jamaica has earned more than US$4 billion from the levy.
Mr Rousseau’s little book on these negotiations, and Dr Davis’ recounting of the issue in his three-volume history/reflection on Jamaica’s bauxite industry, should be required reading for Jamaica’s business students.