JAMAICAN–CANADIAN billionaire Michael Lee-Chin has sought to clear the air about the reasons behind him taking a leave of absence immediately from the boards of NCB Financial Group Limited (NCBFG), National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCBJ), and Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL).
A press release announcing the leave of absence Wednesday said it was "to allow him to focus on certain pressing business and personal matters". However, speculation soon emerged about the health of Lee-Chin and whether the true reason behind him stepping aside temporarily is because of ill health.
"I'm happy to say I am healthy and fine," Lee-Chin told the Jamaica Observer in a videocall to show that he is healthy.
"Let me just make it patently clear, I went to the gym this morning and I was leg-pressing 300 pounds. I did one and a half hours worth of working out so my health is fine. I am good, I am great," he said.
Lee-Chin said he heard the concerns about his health in the aftermath of the press release announcing his leave of absence from the three boards, saying it emerged from the part of the statement which said it was to focus on "personal" matters. He outlined that him stepping aside for three months is to allow him to focus on building his interests in nuclear energy and modern cancer treatment techniques.
"As you know, recently I have embarked on two big challenges: One is treating cancer using targeted radionuclei therapy. It's a new solution [to fighting cancer] that was approved by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] in America, Health Canada, and the UK Government for prostate cancer and neuroendocrine-type tumors," Lee-Chin said.
The new treatments are cutting edge and are displacing chemotherapy and radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment. Lee-Chin has invested more than 225 million euros in a German firm which develops the technology.
"I'm very focused on that, and I got into it about four years ago and it has just taken off significantly."
He adds that the secondary focus is on clean energy using nuclear, a path which he embarked on in recent years.
"Humanity is facing an existential threat from all this carbon that we're putting out every day and [that] we've been putting out for over 200 years since industrialisation, and we now have to get off of that path. We have to go to the core, complete green," he said about the decision to get into nuclear.
"Nuclear energy is the only way to provide [a clean, reliable] base load, and what you'll see propagating over the next 10, 15 years will be nuclear energy being generated through SMRs (small modular reactors) — it's like a miniaturisation.
"That focus of mine has taken off. In fact, last week I was at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories for the ground-breaking ceremony for the first SMR in the world," Lee-Chin added.
He said the two areas of business "have really taken off significantly, and they need to be put on solid footing".
Another matter which he cited as being behind the decision is that the chief operating officer for one of his companies in Canada for the past 25 years is moving on at the end of this month. Lee-Chin said he will step into the role until a replacement is found.
"NCB is in fantastic hands. It's been well managed throughout the last 20 years and I thought, 'I don't have to be there for these three months while I tend to these things, and then I'll come back.' "
The lead independent director, Alvin Wint, will chair the NCBFG board in his absence. The NCBJ and GHL boards are currently chaired by NCBFG President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Patrick Hylton.
Lee-Chin was recently re-elected as a director of NCBFG on February 3 and as a director of GHL on May 4. The last time there was a mentioned leave of absence on the NCBFG board was of his son Adrian Lee-Chin in June 2021, who then resigned three days later on July 1. Adrian had been appointed to the board in July 2020.
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