Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson has eulogised Island Car Rentals founder Michael Campbell as a gentle giant and tireless entrepreneur who worked assiduously across business and civic arenas to build and benefit the nation of his birth.
Campbell, who founded the award-winning company in 1973, died on September 6 at University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew. He was 82 years old.
According to Patterson, Campbell’s deep commitment to the burgeoning Jamaican business landscape led him to take on widening and long-term leadership at the top ranks of industry.
“Throughout his career his creed was twofold — ‘Service to country’ and ‘Never give up’. He was fond of printing the latter slogan out and handing it, with a quiet chuckle, to staff members and friends alike,” Patterson noted.
“He variously served as president of the Jamaica Car Rental Association, and director of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, and the Real Estate Board as an adroit negotiator and regulator of ‘best practice’ across the many positions held,” Patterson said.
“But it was his astute stewardship of the company he led until his death — Island Car Rentals — that transformed the potential of the tourism industry, first in Jamaica and then across the Caribbean. He ensured it became a major pillar for the tremendous growth of tourism by the high quality of service it provided to our visitors and local customers alike,” added Patterson who, long before becoming prime minister, served as minister of industry, trade and tourism.
He said that Campbell built the company “from a mere five used vehicles in 1973” growing it into a major player in the tourism sector that today boasts a fleet of 1,500 vehicles with five branches and which has consistently won top awards and accolades, the most recent award in St Lucia this month.
Patterson also said that Campbell’s personal care and nurturing of his large, diverse staff, as well as his exacting high standards were exquisitely combined to ensure the steady professional development and successful careers of his large Jamaican and Caribbean workforce who rewarded him by their devotion and assiduous work.
He noted that Campbell was born into an entrepreneurial Kingston family in 1931 and completed his early education at Jamaica College before going to university in Canada.
“His alma mater was to remain the lifelong beneficiary of his support, at many levels, from steady financial support to decades-long levels of personal time, committed to mentorship of the fifth-form students,” Patterson said.
“His unswerving loyalty to his alma mater was to earn him the 2020 outstanding JC Old Boy Award — just one of the many accolades garnered in the field of service, philanthropy and community building,” Patterson added.
He remembered Campbell as “an intensely private person” who was “also a deep lover of things Jamaican”, including the creative arts which he supported for decades.
Patterson also highlighted Campbell’s love of sports, noting that he represented his school in water polo, football, and swimming.
Additionally, Patterson said that despite Campbell’s demanding professional career, he found time to enjoy his passion for a wide cross section of sports, from backgammon and dominoes to sailing, fishing, and bird shooting.
He also pointed to Campbell’s support for The University of the West Indies, saying that his generosity and patronage continue to nurture the university and its future in a most profound way.
“For many years I have had the privilege of a shared friendship. I will miss his gentle humorous conversations, grounded in a mutual respect and passion for our beloved homeland. His best tribute lies in the many lives he has touched, helped to grow and flourish to their fullest potential, thereby enriching both themselves and Jamaica,” Patterson said.