Sandals' Team Can Sure Wheel and Deal

Sandals Over Water Suites

Sandals Resorts International Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart sure knows how to make a deal, huh?

He and his bright team of executives, including son, Adam Stewart, CEO, took over 2009 with two deals alone.

The Sandals team solidified their place on top of two Caribbean niches this year, luxury and romance, by inking deals with two huge names in both categories – Four Seasons and Martha Stewart.

gordon stewart

Gordon "Butch" Stewart and Joe Pike

I talked to both Butch and Adam several times throughout the year and asked them, as most reporters do, some difficult questions.

But whether I asked them if they were concerned about a Spanish all-inclusive takeover in Jamaica (namely Riu Hotels & Resorts and Iberostar Hotels and Resorts) or the long road ahead in an economy drained 2009, they both answered as if they knew something I didn’t.

This company always has an ace under its sleeve. I just didn't know this time they had two.


Adam Stewart Sandals
Adam Stewart and Joe Pike

Then on Wednesday, the company announced a partnership with the face of all weddings, Martha Stewart. Sandals and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia introduced Sandals Weddings by Martha Stewart. They inked a four-year deal with Martha Stewart that includes a two-year, mutual option for an extension.

Like every big franchise with big pockets and brains, Sandals took a dark year and made it one of the brightest moments in the company’s recent history. "It's just great working for someone  who is willing to go out and spend while others are pulling back," says Kevin Froemming, president of Unique Vacations— a division of Sandals Resorts.

Butch always waits to cut a deal at the perfect time. We were told he had money set aside for an aquisition or two and was just waiting for the bottom to fall out under the market. And when it did, he and his team swooped in and bought the Four Seasons and used some extra cash to lock up (no pun intended) Martha Stewart.

And if those deals aren't enough to convince you these guys know how to negotiate, listen to this tidbit. Butch sold his boat, Lady Sandals, to actor Nicholas Cage roughly three and a half years ago and bought it back from him two months ago for less than the previous sale. This was yet another case of good timing since it can only be assumed Cage was dumping some of his assets to make up for the loss he took in the Bernie Madoff scandal.

So, when it comes to a deal, Butch, his son Adam, and Froemming know when to get one done. You strike when people are at their most vulnerable. And that's just plain, old good business.