Site logo

Barita affiliate adds to real estate holdings

Barita Investments continues to expand its holding of prime real estate with another multimillion-dollar land acquisition by its affiliated company MJR Real Estate Holdings Limited.

In March, MJR acquired the property at number two Argyle Road on the outskirts of the New Kingston business district for US$2.5 million ($388.3 million), adding to its ownership of the Eden Gardens hotel property, which sits next door at 39 Lady Musgrave Road. The latter was acquired in September 2021 for US$3.2 million, or about $470 million in local currency at the time.

Each property is about or close to 4,000 square metres, or around one acre each, according to land titles seen by the Financial Gleaner.

National Land Agency Titles Office records show that the Argyle Road land was bought from Gateway Group (Jamaica) Limited, whose shareholders are attorney Kent Gammon and financial consultant David Lowe. Lowe is the son of Dr Henry Lowe, the noted scientist, researcher, author, entrepreneur and shareholder in Environmental Health Foundation Limited, which owned the Eden Gardens property. Gateway had acquired the land in July 2020 for US$750,000 from a group of owners which included businessman Hugh Croskery.

Officials of Barita and MJR have so far declined to comment on the precise use to which the contiguous properties will be put, although it has been reported that the two properties will house the new corporate headquarters of the investment firm that is owned by Cornerstone Financial Holdings Limited.

The shareholders of MJR are listed as investment bankers Jason Chambers and Ramon Small Ferguson, director and executive vice-president, respectively, of Barita; and Barita’s legal counsel Malindo Wallace. Its directors are attorneys Trevor Patterson and Dane Patterson.

Barita executives have said MJR is an off-book vehicle being utilised to build out the company’s alternative investments in real estate. It’s landholdings via MJR are said to be massive, with the New Kingston properties and the former Kingston Ice Factory property in downtown Kingston, which it acquired in March 2021 for US$5.4 million, or approximately $795 million, being described by one company insider as “the tip of the iceberg”.

Chambers, who is also Cornerstone’s chief investment officer, told the Financial Gleaner this week that a briefing on Barita’s real estate holdings is being planned for later in the current quarter, at which time the New Kingston land use and other real estate plans will be disclosed.

It is understood that Cornerstone and Barita will be pursuing major commercial and residential property developments in Kingston and St Ann.

The property developments appear to have been timed to coincide with Barita’s celebration in September this year of 45 years of existence. The corporate office is being considered a tribute to Barita’s founder Rita Humphries-Lewin, who is to be given the honorary title of chairman emeritus of the company. Humphries-Lewin is being celebrated as the first woman to establish a stockbrokerage in the Western Hemisphere, and the first woman to chair the board of the Jamaica Stock Exchange and any stock exchange in the Caribbean.

“Humphries-Lewin is widely acknowledged as one of the stalwarts of Jamaica’s financial services sector. Her visionary leadership and commitment to Barita continue to inspire the industry. Her deep commitment to the company she built never wavered. Even after selling her majority interest in Barita to the Cornerstone Group, Humphries-Lewin became a shareholder in Cornerstone through her acquisition of a stake in the company in September 2021. By becoming a Cornerstone shareholder, Rita has joined a distinguished group of accomplished businesspersons who sit atop several industries in Jamaica,” a release issued by Cornerstone at the weekend said.

The release quoted Cornerstone President and CEO Paul Simpson as saying that “Rita has built this wonderful company with a strong legacy. It is important that that legacy is preserved. That ethos has guided Barita over its 45-year march to excellence and now forms the cornerstone of the mindset which is being exemplified by Barita’s next-generation leadership team.”

He noted that the members of the Cornerstone leadership team, through numerous visits with the retired Humphries-Lewin, have gleaned “critical nuggets of wisdom”, which are said to have served the business well.

“In our time, we have had many supporters, as well as many detractors who would have tried to thwart the success of the business. We therefore learned very early that there will always be detractors, but how we dealt with it was just to ignore them and remain focused. We have asked Paul and his team to adopt a similar approach, as resistance is a given once you have set out to challenge the status quo,” Humphries-Lewin said in the release.

Her husband, Karl Lewin, added: “Seeing Cornerstone’s excellent performance with Barita so far, and with the diversification, the investment offered, its interests in banking, and the expansion plans overseas, I am looking forward positively to seeing the results of this new investment in her portfolio. Rita and I are looking forward to keeping the partnership going with Cornerstone. With Rita now being a shareholder, we are interested in seeing what the future holds, even beyond Barita,” he said regarding his wife’s recent investment in Cornerstone and the company’s expansion plans.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, Barita said a scholarship named in honour of Humphries-Lewin will be awarded over the next few months to persons pursuing studies in early-childhood education at a tertiary institution in Jamaica.

Read More


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment