Michael Lee-Chin (born 1951) is a Jamaican-Canadian investor. He is the founder and Chairman of Portland Holdings Inc., a privately held investment company which owns a collection of diversified operating in sectors that include media, tourism, health care telecommunications and financial services. Amongst other positions, he is currently Executive Chairman of AIC Limited (a Canadian mutual fund), and the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. In the latest Forbes Billionaires List, he was placed at number 677, with assets worth around $1.8 billion. (Though Lee-Chin's wealth has been as high as $2.6 billion in the past.) Canadian Business has named him as one of the richest people in Canada.
His first job came in 1965 working as part of the landscaping team at the Frenchman's Cove Hotel. In 1966 he got a summer job working on the Jamaica Queen cruise ship, cleaning the engine room.
He spent two years at the Investors Group, in the Hamilton, Ontario office and in 1979, moved to Regal Capital Planners and became regional manager. Whilst at the company, in 1983, he secured a loan from the Continental Bank of Canada for C$500,000 to purchase a stake in Mackenzie Financial Group. By 1987, the investment was worth C$3.5 million.
In 1987, took the proceeds from his Mackenzie investment and he bought a Kitchener-based company called the Advantage Investment Council (a division of AIC Limited) for $200,000. At the time, the company had holdings of around C$800,000. He renamed the company AIC, and developed it to a fund that today controls around C$6 Billion, with hundreds of thousands of investors.
Following the acquisition of AIC Limited, Lee-Chin set up the Berkshire group of companies – comprising an investment planning arm, a securities dealership and an insurance operation. By 2007, Berkshire amassed for than C$12 billion of assets under administration. In 2007, Manulife acquired Berkshire from Portland Holdings in exchange for shares, making Portland one of the largest shareholders of Manulife.
However, Lee-Chin was reluctant to invest in the dotcom boom, and saw AIC investments lose 8 per cent in value, even as the S&P gained 56 per cent. Investors moved US$224 million out of AIC's flagship 'Advantage Mutual Fund'. The Globe and Mail ran an article predicting even more investors to leave the fund, meaning that they would run out of cash and be forced to sell its core holdings. Lee-Chin's response was to sell stock in Coca-Cola, and invest US$65 million into Mackenzie Holdings (the same firm in which he had invested US$400,000 16 years previously). Letters were sent to all 350,000 investors, explaining the strategy. The investors were calmed by the purchase, and the stock was later sold to Investor Group (the same company Lee-Chin had worked for in the 1980s) at more than twice the price AIC had paid for it. In 2000 and 2001, following the dotcom crash, AIC outperformed the market with 26 per cent growth and 4 per cent decline respectively.
In November 2003, AIC was part of a regulatory investigation involving 105 Canadian mutual funds companies. In it’s review of AIC, investigators found no evidence of late trading and market timing activity by AIC staff or in any of its funds. It did find however, market timing carried out by certain third party investors in AIC Funds. For this, the OSC fined AIC US$58.8 million for its involvement.
In 2005, two investment product managers offering structured products joined the Portland Holdings portfolio, Copernican Capital Corporation has offered retail investment products, primarily sold by brokers, and has raised more than C$300 million since its launch. Markland Street Asset Management, which launched the Oil Sands Sector Fund, raised C$430 million in one of Canada’s largest closed-end IPOs.
In 2003, Senvia Money Services Inc., a global money transfer company was established. This was followed in 2004, by the acquisition of AIC Financial Group Limited, headquartered in Trinidad.
In 2004, he announced plans to set up the AIC Caribbean Fund with the intention of investing in the entire Caribbean region. The stated aim of the fund is to raise US$1 billion in order to "make investments in businesses located in countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), with an emphasis on Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago". So far, it has made a number of large-scale investments.
In 2006, Portland acquired an 85 per cent controlling stake in the United General Insurance Company, the largest auto insurer in Jamaica, and renamed the firm Advantage General Insurance Company. A controlling interest in CVM Communications Group (consisting of radio and televison stations and newspapers) was purchased at the same time.
Portland partnered with Risley Group to form Columbus Communications Ltd. – a Barbadian corporation that holds controlling interest in a number of telecommunications providers in the Caribbean including Cable Bahamas Ltd. Caribbean Crossings Ltd., Merit Communications Ltd. And FibralLink Jamaica Ltd.
In the tourism sector, Michael guided Portland through a number of acquisitions in the Caribbean. Among them, the hospitality operations of the Trident Villas and Spa in Jamaica, Reggae Beach and Blue Lagoon. Portlands first acquisition in the health care industry sector was announced in July 2006, when Medical Associates Ltd., a privately held hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, joined the Portland Group.
Again, this strategy has meant that AIC has significantly underperformed the S&P index, but Lee-Chin believes that the current boom is just another bubble. Lee-Chin describes the market since 1990 as "a series of rolling speculations", and now 'we see a commodities bubble'.
He is also a generous philanthropist, and has donated to various causes, including: