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Sunday 17 November 2019
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Business legend passes

ANTHONY Norman Sabga, Chairman Emeritus of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies (ANSA), has died at the age of 94.

He leaves to mourn his wife Minerva, children Linda, Norman, Joann, David, Donna and Andrew, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sabga was surrounded by family members at the time of his passing at his St Clair home yesterday morning. No official cause of death was given in a statement issued by ANSA yesterday.

The conglomerate did say that funeral arrangements and a special memorial service for its employees, celebrating the life and legacy of Sabga, will be announced in a subsequent notice.

In 2015, Sabga was among eight distinguished Trinidadians to receive honorary doctorates from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus for their sterling contribution to Caribbean development in areas ranging from business and culture to music and law.

Sabga received an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) in recognition of his role as a leading entrepreneur in the region who managed one of the most diversified conglomerates in the Caribbean.

Four years prior, in 2011, Sabga received the country’s highest award, The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. A recipient of the Chaconia Gold Medal in 1998, and commenting on his selection for the ORTT, Sabga said, “I am surprised and humbled to be acknowledged again by this country I love so much.” EYE FOR BUSINESS Sabga emigrated to TT from Syria as a young child in 1930. He entered commerce at an early age through his father’s business, NS Sabga and Sons. ANSA noted that “from those humble beginnings, Dr Sabga would become one of the most innovative and successful businessmen in the region. He was the regional agent for famous brands such as Bosch, Heidelberg and Frico milk in the 1950s and 1960s.” He was also the first businessman to start a completely local manufacturing enterprise in 1966 with ANSA Industries, which made refrigerators, televisions and other household items.

In the 1970s, Sabga was active in the garment industry and real estate development. He developed what is now Regents Park.

He acquired the ailing McEnearny Alstons Group in 1986, when the economy was in the trauma of the decline of oil prices after the OPEC oil-shock of 1973-1983.

ANSA, in its release, recalled that Sabga “transformed this ailing 28 company Group into a formidable conglomerate within a space of a decade.

He tripled the number of companies to over 70 in 2017, commanding profits that grew forty-fold over that period and providing a share value that grew by 15,000 percent.

He was succeeded by his son, A.

Norman Sabga, as Chief Executive Officer in 1996 and later as Group Chairman in 2000.

Later in life, as Chairman Emeritus, Sabga focused his attention on ANSA Merchant Bank, which he formed in 1994 in partnership with Robert Fleming Limited, a London investment bank, and which subsequently, in 2004, became ANSA Merchant Bank. Sabga was also a major supporter of the University of the West Indies.

The Group founded the ANSA McAL Centre for Psychological Research. His final and most far-reaching philanthropic initiative was the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence, launched in 2005.

It is the only privately funded enterprise in the region that recognises and provides significant awards in the areas of Arts and Letters, Science and Technology, Public and Civic Contributions and Entrepreneurship.

FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS Many employees learned of his death yesterday via an internal memo signed by Group Chairman and Chief Executive, A. Norman Sabga. Titled, “Forever in Our Hearts”, Norman Sabga said it was, “with great sadness”, that he advised colleagues of, “the passing of our beloved Chairman Emeritus.” “His concern was always the welfare of our ANSA family of which every one of you are part of. We will always remember him as a devoted family man, a colleague, a leader, a visionary and one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the twentieth century.” Sabga said the family “remember him as straightforward, a sincere and passionate leader, devoted friend and mentor to those who needed his assistance.” “We will never forget his words, ‘Find a job that you like and you never have to work one day in your life.’ He certainly did, and we hope that the lessons of his life, of persistence, hard work, generosity, care for those less fortunate, honour and respect for all persons will live on in each of us,” Sabga said.

Chairman of the NGC Group of Companies Gerry Brooks, yesterday described his former boss as a cherished friend and mentor.

Brooks, who retired from ANSA in 2015 as Chief Operating Officer and Sector Head, Manufacturing, after 25 years of service, told Newsday that Sabga, “had the great gift of spotting opportunity and being very, very entrepreneurial.” “He also had the courage, conviction and ability to lead the execution process. Mr Sabga was an entrepreneur par excellence, a regional leader, an inspirer of people.

“He treasured his family, he made time for his family. So while he was a regionalist, he was also the patriarch of this family, to whom his community would go to and solicit advice. Mr Sabga was very generous with his advice and he was also very generous in spirit.” LEADERS REFLECT Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar, also extended their condolences to the Sabga family.

Reflecting on Sabga’s successful career as an entrepreneur and businessman.

Rowley said, “Anthony is an example to all of us, of the heights that can be achieved through determination, foresight and an unwavering pursuit of excellence. His achievements as one of our country’s top businessmen are complemented by his desire to give back to his adopted country, as evidenced by his establishment of the ANSA Mc Al Foundation and the Caribbean Awards for Excellence.” The PM added that as a business visionary, philanthropist, husband and father, Sabga has distinguished himself as a dedicated citizen of TT whose legacy will live on not only in this country but also the wider Caribbean.

Persad-Bissessar described Sabga’s life story as “truly inspiring”.

She cited his rise from humble beginnings and how he “meticulously built a business empire over the course of several decades” to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Caribbean.

“I recall a statement he made, which aptly reflects his approach: “Honesty, integrity and determination to succeed – these values have served me very well. I was never afraid to make any decision, whether right or wrong. Very often, however, a decision is made and it has to be shaped into success. So the determination to succeed is a key factor”,” Persad-Bissessar stated.

She said Sabga’s passing is a great loss to TT and the region but, “I am certain that his vision, determination and sagacity will continue to inspire generations to come.”


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