‘Loss to the nation’
Jamaicans, both locally and in the diaspora, have begun an unofficial period of mourning for business giant and founder of the LASCO Affiliated Companies, Lascelles Chin, OJ, who died on Saturday night while undergoing treatment in the United States (US).
The 85-year-old Chin, a native from Bog Walk, St Catherine, who grew up in Kendal, Manchester, and Balaclava, St Elizabeth, was the force behind the LASCO brand’s growth into a household name in Jamaica, particularly over the past two decades, with food products being offered at affordable prices and through philathropic efforts such as the annual Nurse of the Year and Police Officer of the Year awards.
Chin established LASCO in 1988, and up to the time of his death, served as executive chairman of Lasco Manufacturing, Lasco Financial and Services and Lasco Distributors, which all form part of the LASCO Affiliated Companies.
Businessman with a heart
In several ways, Chin’s story is typical of that of many other Jamaicans of Chinese descent: he was the successful son of immigrants from Hong Kong, who, in their new home, had made their meagre living from shopkeeping and endeavoured to give their children a better life.
His rags-to-riches tale, however, is more than just a cliché. Far from being the archetypal entrepreneur who merely amassed enterprises like notches on a belt, he became a businessman with a heart who would have been far more at ease measuring his prosperity not in terms of what he had been able to accumulate, but by how much he was able to give back.
Chin stood at the helm of a corporation that provided Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as Central America, the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom, with more than 300 food, household, personal care and pharmaceutical items under the Lasco trade name, all well-known and highly popular for their affordability, which reflected the philosophy of the group’s founder and chairman.
While Lasco Manu-facturing Limited and Lasco Distributors Limited have taken care of the production and distribution aspects of the group, the third member, Lasco Financial Services Limited, diversified Chin’s interests by providing cambio, remittance, loan, bill payment, and courier services.
As news of his death emerged Sunday morning, tributes began flowing from government officials, members of the private and public sectors, the diaspora, and households across the country as individuals and groups reflected on Chin’s deep commitment to nation-building and his exemplary philanthropical ways.
Leading tributes from the nation yesterday was Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who, in a statement, described Chin as a distinguished Jamaican businessman and philanthropist.
“Mr Chin’s passing represents an immense loss to the nation as he leaves behind a legacy of entrepreneurial success, significant achievements, and invaluable contributions to Jamaica. Lascelles Chin embarked on an extraordinary entrepreneurial journey as early as 1956 that transformed his life and countless others,” Holness said.
“Born in Bog Walk, St Catherine, he possessed an unwavering determination to create positive change and uplift his fellow Jamaicans. With a strong work ethic and a keen business acumen, Mr Chin founded the renowned LASCO Group, a conglomerate that encompasses various industries including Lasco Manufacturing, Lasco Financial and Services, and Lasco Distributors — of which he is also executive chairman. Additionally, he is one of the directors of the King’s House Foundation and of the University of the West Indies’ School of Nursing Advisory Board.”
The prime minister added: “Under his visionary leadership, the LASCO Group experienced remarkable growth and became one of the leading entities within the Caribbean region. Mr Chin’s relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation has solidified the group’s position as a trailblazer in the Jamaican business landscape. His commitment to quality, integrity, and customer satisfaction has set the benchmark for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders alike.”
Holness also stated that beyond his entrepreneurial endeavours, Chin will be remembered for his extensive philanthropic work and his dedication to developing the Jamaican society.
“His generosity knew no bounds as he consistently supported initiatives focused on education, healthcare, and social welfare. Through the LASCO Chin Foundation, he spearheaded numerous projects that have positively impacted the lives of countless Jamaicans, particularly the most vulnerable members of society,” Holness stated.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding, in reacting to Chin’s passing, called him “a true Jamaican visionary and innovative entrepreneur”.
Said Golding: “From trading to manufacturing to financial services, he developed the Lasco brand that brought value to the people, a reputation underscored by his genuine personal humility. The Lasco brand has become synonymous with quality and affordability among our people.
“Today, we remember Lascelles Chin for his tremendous contribution to Jamaica’s business landscape and consumers. His entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to excellence will forever inspire us. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family, friends, and all those whose lives he touched. May he rest in peace.” ️
In a statement from the Wolmer’s Trust, Chairman Milton Samuda also expressed his deep and sincere condolences on behalf of Chin’s alma mater, Wolmer’s Boys’ School.
“From very humble beginnings in Bog Walk, Las (as he was affectionately known) achieved through visioning, dedication, belief in self and faith in God. Always a dreamer, he chased his dreams to implementation with a ferocious work ethic which defied twenty-four hours in a day. That is why he was able to constantly evolve, rising from a small importer of black pepper, through chairman and managing director of Henkel Jamaica, to become the founder of the LASCO Affiliated Companies. Under his inspirational leadership, LASCO has become a household name, a trusted brand which has delivered value to both its customers and investors,” Samuda stated.
He continued: “Las contributed his genius to a wide variety of industries including manufacturing, finance and insurance, and data-processing. He championed the cause of export and actively sought out new markets. His keen eye for opportunity, his energetic leadership, his willingness to undertake risk and the ease with which he built partnerships fuelled his inevitable success. He hurdled each failure, learning what it had to teach and employing that learning in the very next effort. Las was truly proud when his beloved LASCO became the first group in the history of Jamaica to have three listed companies on the Jamaica Stock Exchange at the same time.”
The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), in its tribute and on behalf of the business community, expressed profound sadness over the loss of Chin.
“Lascelles Chin dedicated his entire life to establishing an extraordinary entrepreneurial and philanthropic legacy that spans over six decades. His unparalleled business acumen and trailblazing spirit were evident across multiple sectors, including manufacturing, financial services, pharmaceuticals, and data processing. As we reflect on the remarkable career of this visionary, the PSOJ takes great pride in commemorating the life of a true titan of business whose selfless service contributed immensely to Jamaica’s economic development. His outstanding achievements, including his induction into The PSOJ Hall Of Fame in 2011, were duly recognised. Mr. Lascelles Chin stood as an exceptional role model within Jamaica’s business community, building an iconic brand that not only created thousands of job opportunities for Jamaicans but also provided cost-effective, high-value goods and services through LASCO manufacturing, distributors, and financial services,” the PSOJ stated.
... A salesman and philanthropist
Lascelles Chin was the son of Leonard Chin and Florence Yee. He was born on December 5, 1937, and attended Bog Walk Primary School before gaining entry to Wolmer’s in Kingston. With his sights set on being an agricultural chemist, Chin first obtained employment as a laboratory technician in the University of the West Indies (UWI) pharmacy in 1953, following his graduation from high school. His career path, however, took him to the Jamaican branch of the German company Henkel Chemicals, where during his first year as a salesman, he was responsible for one half of the company’s sales. Years later, he was to be appointed manager of the firm, overseeing the steady development of the sale of adhesives and other hardware goods.
Buoyed by his success as a salesman, the 23-year-old Chin decided to launch out on his own and started the National Trading Company with a capital investment of £175 of his own money as he was unable to secure financing from any of the traditional lenders. By then a family man, Chin was living in rented premises in Havendale, St Andrew, where he began operating his business as an importer of peas and black pepper, on his way to becoming the island’s major dealer in the later product.
Chin became involved in a number of other enterprises, including car rentals and furniture manufacturing, but it was his introduction in 1988 of a line of goods, later rebranded under the LASCO name, that had the greatest impact on the ordinary consumer. The milk and soy-based products, sold in pocket-friendly packages, as well as tinned goods such as mackerel and corned beef, found favour with price-conscious shoppers, particularly those in the lower-income bracket.
However, the life of the father of six was not without controversy. The disputatious events surrounding Chin’s 1994 divorce from his first wife, Audrey, who worked with the Lasco group, became a public affair when court proceedings ensued to decide how the corporation’s assets were to be divided between them. Following protracted litigation that concluded in the Privy Council in 2007, Audrey was awarded half of the shares in the company. Disagreements between Chin and his second wife, Eileen, reportedly led to her resignation as managing director of Lasco Manufacturing Limited in March 2015 although her departure was attributed to health reasons.
In October 2010, Lasco Affiliated Companies was listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, and at Chin’s request, a percentage of the shares were reserved for members of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, as well as certain employees of the public sector, a group that had been the recipient of Chin’s philanthropy over the years by way of the Nurse, Teacher, Principal, and Police Officer of the Year Award programmes. The Lasco group has also given support to basic schools and has sponsored mentorship and environmental awareness projects in the inner city.
Chin, a holder of membership in the Order of Jamaica and Commander of the Order of Distinction, served on numerous boards and headed several organisations, including the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation, the National Productivity Council, and the Jamaica Exporters Association.