But he itched to start his own company, the family statement said, and he seized an opportunity in 1968 when he recognized the appeal of air-conditioning for people living in an island climate. He founded his first business, Appliance Traders Ltd., after he persuaded the Fedders Corp. of Edison, N.J., to allow him to represent the brand in Jamaica.
From there, Mr. Stewart developed his overarching business philosophy: “Find out what people want, give it to them and, in doing so, exceed their expectations,” the family statement said. At first, Adam Stewart said, this involved being willing to install air-conditioners for his customers any time, day or night.
“He did whatever it took,” Adam Stewart said.
Mr. Stewart’s work with the Sandals and Beaches resorts led to leadership roles in Jamaica’s tourism industry, including a decade as director of the Jamaica Tourist Board. In 1992, his Butch Stewart Initiative pumped $1 million a week into the foreign exchange market to help halt the slide of the Jamaican dollar.
In 1994, he led a group of investors that took control of Air Jamaica, the Caribbean’s largest regional carrier. He put together an investment group that paid $37.5 million for 70 percent of the airline, giving himself a 46 percent stake.
The move was the kind of grand public gesture Mr. Stewart had become famous for, as The New York Times reported in an article about the move.
At the helm of the troubled state-owned airline, Mr. Stewart began adding routes and improving service. As part of the turnaround, he increased the airline’s revenue and grabbed market share from competitors.
“One thing you have to give Butch Stewart, he is going to try everything to make the company work,” Peter J. Dolara, a senior vice president of American Airlines at the time, told The Times. “The man is a ferocious competitor.”