Chris Blackwell - File
For years the name Chris Blackwell has been synonymous with music, revered for developing such internationally acclaimed Reggae artistes like Bob Marley, Jimmie Cliff among others.
But the 'been-there-done-that' music magnate, noted for his exceptional ability to spot talent and his contribution to exposing Reggae music to the world has been widening his business holdings over the years.
He has done films, developed real estate, run boutique hotels and has been in management.
Now, Blackwell is in another spirit - literally. He is manufacturing his own line of dark-coloured Jamaican rum, Blackwell Black Gold.
Blackwell talked about his rum, range of other business interests and the strategies he has employed for success over his colourful avant garde career at Mayberry Invest-ment's investors' forum at the Knutsford Court hotel in New Kingston Wednesday evening.
He spent about US$200,000 to develop Black Gold, which has been on the market for six months.
"It is exciting so far. I am enjoying it because people seem to like it," he told the Financial Gleaner. "I can see it running out of the stores at the airport."
In Jamaica's competitive market for rum, Black Gold has to face-off against several products from the market leader, J Wray and Nephew and others.
However, while the new brand seems to have gained acceptance among duty-free shoppers at the island's airports, Blackwell said he "would like to see it capture more in general Jamaica".
"But I think it just takes time to get people to taste it and to know that it is a good rum rather than just a package with a name," he said.
"What I want to do, is start getting it abroad because rum is really picking up a lot. Vodka is the biggest (alcoholic) drink, but rum is second to vodka now."
At the Mayberry forum Blackwell was asked why a rum venture. He gave a whimsical chuckle before responding.
"Because somebody suggested it to me," he said.
Blackwell has famously developed Island Records, which he used to bring many global popular music talents to the fore and, by doing so, broadened the global appeal of Jamaica's reggae music.
In the 1960s, in the era of ska, he discovered and launched Millie Small, whose record My Boy Lollipop was a hit across Europe.
He recorded and promoted Jamaica's reggae music icon, the late Bob Marley and his band, the Wailers, and was also behind the Irish Rockband U2, among others.
But in the early 1990s, Blackwell sold Island Records, stayed on as its manager for a few years before venturing to do other things, like setting up small, boutique hotels.
He left Island Records - for which he earned a reported US$300 million - saying it was getting "too corporate for me".
Much of that money, Blackwell explained, is now being used to undertake many of the newer business ventures - like the multibillion dollar expansion of the famous Golden Eye estate in St Mary that was once owned by Ian Flemming, the developer of the James Bond character.
That project, he had previously reported, will include 10 beach cottages; 10 spa cottages; 10 three and four bedroom villas; 10 huts; and 32 suites.
"The original structure will remain intact," he had said.
The development is reserved for exclusively wealthy buyers.
He is also improving his Strawberry Hill hotel high in the hills of St Andrew and The Caves in Westmoreland. The combined cost: J$6.2 billion.
To the enthusiastic gathering of business and entertainment interests who were fascinated by his success and the diversity of his business pursuits, Blackwell advised that he did not pursue everything at once.
He started out very small working 18 hours a day developing Island Records.
The real estate and hotel businesses came much later on, after slowly buying properties one at a time with the money he made from the music business.