Jamaican media magnate Oliver Clarke dies at 75

Oliver Clarke

KINGSTON, Jamaica  – Prominent Jamaican businessman, media magnate, Oliver Frederick Clarke, died on Saturday night after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 75.

Clarke was the managing director and chairman of the 185-year-old Gleaner Company which publishes The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.

The paper described  Clarke as a “quintessential media tycoon, Caribbean luminary, humanitarian and banker who had an almost inexhaustible list of accolades.

“A central figure in corporate Jamaica, Clarke played a pivotal role in the establishment of the powerful Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) in 1976 and was later immortalised among its esteemed leadership over the years when he was inducted into the organisation’s Hall of Fame in 1996.”

The paper said that Clarke, a  shrewd businessman and entrepreneur extraordinaire, and the late chairman of Radio Jamaica, J. Lester Spaulding, signed a deal in 2015 to merge the newspaper with the Radio Jamaica Communications Group, arguing that unfavourable local economic conditions were at the heart of the decision to amalgamate the media entities.

“You cannot provide independent news unless you are viable. What Jamaica faces is that there are a number of foreign companies coming in and putting up programmes that solicit advertising and you have a lot of businesses that are not making their way. The Gleaner’s interest in this is trying to create an organisation that is viable, can last, and is Jamaican,” Clarke said then.

Clarke worked with the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) as assistant general manager and later general manager from 1971 to 1976. He served as chairman of JNBS for two decades, 1977 to 1997, and also as deputy chairman from 1997 until 2002, when he was reappointed chairman.

His involvement with the institution deepened in February 2017, when he was appointed chairman of the newly launched subsidiary, JN Bank, as well as the restructured mutual holding companies, The Jamaica National Group and the JN Financial Group. In April 2019, he demitted chairmanship of both JN Bank and the JN Financial Group and remained chairman of The Jamaica National Group up to the time of his passing.

In 1990, Clarke received the Americas Award from the Americas Foundation. The American Foundation for the University of the West Indies recognised him as a Caribbean Luminary in 2004, and in April 2006, the American Friends of Jamaica presented Clarke  with its International Humanitarian Award.

In 2009, he was awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws from The University of the West Indies, and also from the University of Technology. In 2013, he also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Northern Caribbean University.

Clarke, a chartered accountant, who studied at the London School of Economics and received a BSc in economics, was inducted into the Order of Jamaica in 1998.

He is survived by daughter, Alexandra, and widow, Monica Ladd.