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Rudolph Hayden Singh: A life well lived

Sunday, March 06, 2011


RECENTLY deceased Court's Managing Director Rudolph "Hayden" Singh, hereafter referred to as Hayden, was given an impressive send-off at the Swallowfield Chapel last Thursday. Hayden, born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, began his illustrious career in 1969 at Texaco Guyana as deputy superintendent of terminals.

Hayden left Texaco in 1977, and joined the Guyana subsidiary of T Geddes Grant in 1978 as a sales manager, was promoted to marketing manager, but decided to migrate to England in 1980 due to the political and economic difficulties in Guyana at the time. Reflecting his experience in Guyana, in England, Hayden worked in a large furniture store, Times Furnishing, and a petro chemical company, Samuel Banner and Company Limited, where he was employed as sales manager with responsibility for the fuel division.

He made Jamaica his adopted home in 1988, rejoining the then Caribbean wide conglomerate of T Geddes Grant as marketing director for the Caribbean under then Chairman and Managing Director Roy Collister. After their takeover by Trinidadian conglomerate Neal & Massey, Hayden joined Courts Jamaica Limited in 1993 as operations director, where he was promoted to deputy Managing Director, and finally Managing Director in 2000. During his time at Courts, the branch network expanded from 17 in 1992 to its current 29.

It was under Hayden's leadership that Court's Caribbean business (including the highly profitable publicly listed Jamaican operation of which he was Managing Director) was sold to the El Salvadoran based Unicomer after Court's UK parent went into administration. However, Hayden was asked to stay on as Managing Director after the sale.

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At the funeral, Unicomer's Chairman Mario Siman commented that Hayden had become a "trusted member of the Unicomer family" describing him as "warm and passionate and a true gentleman" who "always brought a fresh perspective to our meetings". Calling Hayden an example to live by, Siman stated that they were dedicating their new flagship store in Hayden's memory, as well as making a sizeable contribution to charity.

Dennis Harris, now acting managing director of Unicomer Jamaica Limited in addition to his former job of regional finance director, described his former boss as "a life well lived". He noted particularly that Hayden had the "ability to get on with others without compromising his principles". According to Harris, Hayden empowered his executives, always remaining focused on his constant goal of making Courts "an icon of retailing in Jamaica". Although demanding in holding his executives to account for their performance, he was always ready to break into "contagious laughter", as ready to make a joke as give sound advice. Amongst his key qualities was the way he listened, guided, credited and inspired people.

Despite his demanding work schedule, Hayden found time to rise to the position of Vice President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica between 2003 and 2005, having previously served as Honorary Treasurer between 2002 to 2003. He was a director of publicly traded company Pan Caribbean Financial Services Limited and Pan CaribbeanBank Limited (he chaired the Human Resource & Compensation Committee), a non-executive board member of Hi Lo (part of the Grace Kennedy Group), as well as being Past President of the British Businessman's Association (now part of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce).

His brother-in-law Neville Fenton noted that he had a "high degree of integrity which he has guarded passionately" and "never compromised". He noted that Hayden was equally comfortable talking to captains of industry or the man on the street, treating all with respect and humour.

His wife Joyce notes that in the family he was regarded as having a "Midas touch" as every company he worked for became very profitable, perhaps due to him having a "head for figures". Other than his enormous capacity for hard work (he always wanted to learn even when watching TV), his key strengths were his marketing focus (even on holiday he was always studying the stores he visited) and his keenly honed negotiating skills that first brought him to Courts' attention.

One of his special interests was Mustard Seed Communities, where was a long-standing board member. At his funeral, Mustard Seed's Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon noted that "few people were as good for their word as Hayden", as he was always there to support them in their time of need. He will be missed.

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