CHRIS Dehring, chairman of LIME Jamaica Ltd, admitted his failure to sign triple Olympic sprint medallist Yohan Blake two years ago cost him nearly three times the original amount to sign the world champion a year later.
Dehring made the revelation at the Sips and Spikes welcome function hosted by LIME in Blake's honour at the Fiction Club last Saturday night.
Blake, who along with Asafa Powell are LIME ambassadors, was feted alongside his family and close friends at the function.
"Yohan, I owe you an apology. In 2010 Cubie Dennis called me and said: 'Chris, you have to sign Yohan Blake', and I told them 'No, I don't think so,'" Dehring said while presenting Blake a plaque of a cartoon done by Jamaica Observer's Clovis.
"I remember you coming out of high school. You were fantastic, great star, but... I turned them down and the worst part is that you wanted to come to us," revealed Dehring, one of Jamaica's shrewdest businessmen.
"I turned you down and then you went to the World Championship and won the 100m and became the world champion and the price tripled on me," he said to spontaneous laughter from the small gathering.
"We worked out a deal and you came to LIME and we are so proud of you," Dehring added.
Blake, 22, is the current 2011, 100m world champion and double Olympic silver medallist over 100 and 200m in London.
'The Beast', as he is known, personally greeted everyone in attendance upon his arrival, neatly dressed in black pants and grey shirt with a black tie to match.
"Tonight is really a special night for me and I just want to say thanks to everyone who came out here tonight," said Blake, who has a personal best of 9.69 seconds over 100m — the third fastest time ever behind Usain Bolt's 9.58 and 9.63.
Sporting his Richard Mille watch, which is worth approximately US$500,000, Blake says his hard work is finally paying off.
"I have to work hard because I know how it feels to be poor and sometimes hungry, and sports is my way out; that's what drives me... In training that's how I got the name 'The Beast' because Usain always said he wished he could be like Yohan Blake. I'm always on the ball and even when I go home, I'm still training and I never say never," added the athlete whose 19.26 seconds makes him the second fastest ever over the 200m.
With Bolt's wealth estimated at US$20 million and Powell at US$6.5m, Blake, the rising star of track and field, has lucrative contracts with Adidas, LIME and Wata.
Recently, SportsPro, a British magazine that reports on the business and financial aspects of sport, thought Blake has the capacity to attract top dollars from advertisers, and ranks him at No 40 on its 50 most marketable list of athletes for 2012.