Portland Holdings Inc.
Billionaire Michael Lee-Chin may be more famous around these parts for the money he gives away than the money he makes. And that seems to be how he likes it. His Burlington-based Portland Holdings owns plenty of big-ticket items — including resorts, TV stations, a bank and numerous financial services providers. He says he loves the challenges of working in what he calls the world’s most dynamic industry — investing — but loves the generosity that money affords him even more.
“You can care, but if you don’t have cash, you can’t help,” said Lee-Chin, a gregarious and thoughtful man with a voice that rings of Jamaica, where he grew up. When asked his biggest achievement of the past year, he doesn’t list expansion of his company or items bought and sold, but the happiness of his family. “And to continue to be in a position to be able to give back to my community.” He says his focus is to expand aspects of his business: National Commercial Bank in Jamaica, an energy-from-waste plant in the Dominican Republic and Mandeville Group, a financial services firm run out of his Burlington office, a shimmering gold building north of the QEW/Highway 403 interchange.
He has about 100 employees now and will be making new hires in 2015, people with experience in operations, marketing and investment in the financial services field. They’re the type of jobs one would typically associate with Bay Street, but Lee-Chin says that distance helps keep his company focused.
He’s coy on what area of philanthropy he might get into next, but says that when ability, need and the right idea fall in line, that’s when he’ll pounce.
“Other than that, I’m just going to continue to swim upstream, which has been the story of my life.”
Portland Holdings Inc.
Owner: Michael Lee-Chin
What they do: Invest in a broad range of companies and sectors, including media, financial services, resorts and coffee, in Canada and the Caribbean
Nominated by: Nick Bontis, associate professor of strategic management at the DeGroote School of Business
Why the nomination: Lee-Chin has a record of sharing his wealth with the community, making several high-value donations including a gift of $10 million to Joseph Brant Hospital in September.
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