Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2017 Contents On February 5, 2004,
there was a com-
mentary in this
Blessed are our
is appropriate to reference given the
passing of Dr Anthony N Sabga on
That commentary attempted to
address some of the perceptions that
many in this part of world have about
wealthy people and focused on the
accomplishments of Anthony Sabga,
Arthur Lok Jack, Aleem Mohammed
and a few others.
Among the points made 13 years
ago were: "We cannot accept the
idea that people get rich because of
a lifetime of working hard and smart,
taking risks and making sacrifices....
"If you talk to any of our local bil-
lionaires, they would tell you they did
not grow up wealthy. All of them
would tell you they delayed buying
things they or their families wanted...
that they were never enthralled by
brands or all-inclusive fetes.
"Without speaking to any of them,
I can predict they saved a big part of
their incomes and were ready (with
their own capital, borrowed money
and, most importantly, mentally)
when the opportunity came for their
The piece went on to note that Mr
Lok Jack's breakthrough acquisition
was the purchase of Charles Candy
from Vernon Charles, who was mi-
grating to Canada and that Aleem
Mohammed hung up his white med-
ical coat to transform SM Jaleel and
Anthony Sabga's opportunity came
with the acquisition of McEnearney
Alstons in 1986.
The column in 2004 added: "These
men leveraged their acquisition to
build the empires they now lead by
dint of sacrifice, entrepreneurship
and by reinvesting in their companies
and not "eating" out the profits....
"Might I suggest that among them,
our billionaires employ tens of thou-
sands of people, pay millions in taxes,
have reinvested tens of millions in
their companies and ALL give back
to the country in other ways."
The story of how ANSA became
ANSA McAL is most instructive.
In 1986, Angostura and Associated
Brands Ltd bid against each other to
take over McAL (the abbreviation of
Mc Enearney Alstons).
According to the book The His-
tory of the ANSA McAL group of
companies: 125 years of business in
the Caribbean, on August 4, 1986,
Associated Brands made a bid, the
total cost of which was $18.6 million,
for a controlling 51 per cent stake in
McEnearney Alstons, which was
conservatively valued at the time
at $300 million.
Among the major shareholders of
Associated Brands at that time were
Arthur Lok Jack, Patrick Young Sing,
Alwin Poon Tip and Wilfred Espinet,
according to the ANSA McAL history.
On August 11, 1986, Angostura
made a takeover offer for McEnear-
ney Alstons at $1.50 a share, com-
pared to the $1.20 a share offered by
In the middle of the takeover bat-
tle, Amalgamated Industries Ltd, the
car assembly business of McEnear-
ney Alstons, announced on Septem-
ber 13, 1986, that the company had
ceased to carry on business with
effect from September 12, 1986.
Also on September 13, according to
the history of the group, Angostura
filed a revised offer for McEnearney
Alstons, lowering its offer from $150
On October 2, 1986, the group's
car distribution business Charles
McEnearney & Co Ltd notified its
employees that that company was
going into receivership.
After the car dealership was placed
into receivership, there was serious
concern about whether McEnearney
Alstons would survive.
But then on November 9, 1986,
ANSA made a bid to acquire a major-
ity stake in McEnearney Alstons by
offering to pay $30 million for newly
offered ordinary McAL shares at $1
each, effectively paying $30 million
for a majority stake in the company.
As well, the investment came with an
option for ANSA to invest an addi-
tional $10 million within three years.
To put in context the magnitude
of Anthony Sabga's faith in the local
economy and in his ability to turna-
round the fortunes of McEnearney
Alstons, which had fallen on hard
times, it is necessary to appreciate
that 1986 was a very difficult year
In 1986, T&T was in its fourth year
of a steep economic decline, accord-
ing to the Central Bank's public edu-
cation pamphlet on inflation, which
was published in 2006.
In the previous three years, the
country's GDP growth rate had de-
clined by 10.3 per cent in 1983, 5.8
per cent in 1984 and 4.1 per cent in
1985. In 1984, the economy declined
by 3.3 per cent.
Central Bank Governor Alvin Hi-
laire, in a 2000 International Mon-
etary Fund paper on Caribbean Ap-
proaches to Economic Stabilisation
wrote: "By the time the oil boom was
punctured in the early 1980s, the
country had grown accustomed to
a certain lifestyle and the necessary
adjustments were delayed. Govern-
ment and private consumption were
slow to adjust.
"With a large and sticky current
expenditure bill, a significant part
of which was devoted to wage pay-
ments, the government initially
scaled back capital spending, but
fiscal deficits nonetheless emerged.
"The collapse of real estate prices
spread through the economy, helping
to take down a number of financial
enterprises which had built their
portfolios on the expectation of
continued bouyancy in the real es-
tate market and a steady growth in
"Serious adjustment only began
around the mid-1980s with the
tightening of import and exchange
controls and a devaluation in 1985."
T&T, at the time of the
McAL acquisition by
ANSA, was less than
two months away from
the political earth-
quake of the 33-3 general election
victory of ANR Robinson's National
Alliance for Reconstruction.
Imagine what it must have tak-
en to make an initial investment of
$30 million in the McAL group, at
a time when the economy was deep
in a downturn and after two of the
significant subsidiaries of the group
had gone out of business within the
previous two months.
Such an investment could only
have been made by a man who had
strong faith in the ability of the lo-
cal economy to recover from what
turned out to be seven years of eco-
nomic decline---from 1983 to 1989.
But not only did he have faith in
the eventual recovery of the econ-
omy, he must have had tremendous
self-belief that he would have been
able to make the right strategic de-
cisions and hire the right executives
necessary to effect the turnaround
It is noteworthy that just a few
years after the acquisition, what
became ANSA McAL in 1987 was
completely transformed into a lo-
cal behemoth that today has assets
of close to $14 billion, annual profits
of close to $1 billion and over 6,000
What an achievement!
MAY 4 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
VIEW | BG3
BG VIEW ANTHONY WILSON
Chief editor business
Editing and design
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Boundless faith in his destiny
Anthony Sabga 1923 to 2017...
In this December 6, 1986 photograph, chairman of the McEnearney Alstons group of companies (McAL), Conrad
O'Brien, right, introduces the latest investor in McAL, Anthony N Sabga, chairman of the ANSA group of companies
during a meeting of McAL shareholders. ANSA injected $30 million into McAL in 1986.
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