Entrepreneur Extraordinaire Oliver F. Clarke Passes On


Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

The Gleaner Company’s Chairman loses cancer battle
 

The nation has been rocked by the untimely death of Oliver F. Clarke, Jamaica’s leading media mogul, who passed away at his home in the parish of St. Andrew aged 75 on 16 May.

Clarke, Chairman (1979-2020) and Managing Director (1976-2011) of The Gleaner Company, had been battling cancer for some time and particularly leaves the English-speaking Caribbean media world in a sad state of shock.

As well as helping develop the 185-year-old Gleaner Company to become the dominant media force on the island over the past four decades, Clarke was involved in other business areas across corporate Jamaica including banking, the book industry and real estate.

He served as Managing Director at the Gleaner Company from 1976-2011 and was chairman of the media giant (now known as 1834 Investments Limited) since 1979, and was inducted into the Order of Jamaica in 1998.

  
Oliver Clarke – via YouTube

Clarke stood his ground against the Government, when the then Prime Minister Michael Manley led a march on the popular national newspaper on 25 September 1979 in protest at what he regarded as unfair journalism against his administration. The march ended with a controversial warning from Manley of “Next time! Next time!”

Undeterred, Clarke launched a campaign to protect the free press that he regarded as a critical pillar of democracy and maintained a dominant presence in international press organisations. He was later elected president of The Inter American Press Association.

He received the Americas Award from the Americas Foundation in 1990. The American Foundation for the University of the West Indies recognised Clarke as a Caribbean Luminary in 2004, and the American Friends of Jamaica awarded him their International Humanitarian Award in 2006.

In 2000 Prime Minster P.J. Patterson appointed Clarke to chair a Parliamentary Salaries Review Committee to make recommendations about the payment received by parliamentarians. The Committee recommended no increase in the current base pay for members of parliament (MPs) and reported that it didn’t believe that parliamentarians were overpaid. The Committee also recommended the construction of a new parliament building and that the Government should provide and furnish a constituency office for each MP.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from both the University of the West Indies (2009) and the University of Technology (2009). Four years later Clarke received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville.

Having gained his BSc in economics from the London School of Economics in England and a qualified chartered accountant, he moving into the banking industry. Clarke worked at the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), initially as assistant general manager and later general manager from 1971 to 1976 before serving as chairman (1977-1997), deputy chairman (1997-2002) and then re-appointed chairman (2002-2017). 

He became chairman of the newly-launched subsidiary JN Bank and the restructured mutual holding companies of The Jamaica National Group and the JN Financial Group. In 2019 he ended his chairmanship of both JN Bank and the JN Financial Group, but he remained chairman of The Jamaica National Group until his death.

  

Ever the opportunist, Clarke and the late J. Lester Spaulding (Radio Jamaica Chairman) signed a deal in 2015 to merge the newspaper with the Radio Jamaica Communications Group to amalgamate the media entities. 

Always successful, Clarke shall forever be remembered for being a visionary and remarkable man.

He is survived by his widow Monica Ladd and daughter Alexander.

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