On Thursday, March 9, the GraceKennedy Foundation (GKF) hosted the family of the late Luis Fred Kennedy and other members of the GraceKennedy (GK) family at the Kingston launch of Firstborn: The Life of Luis Fred Kennedy, a new book by his son, Dr Fred W. Kennedy.
Firstborn chronicles the life of Luis Fred Kennedy, former Chairman and Governing Director of GraceKennedy (GK) and son of one of GK’s founders. At the launch, Luis Fred was heralded as an outstanding Jamaican businessman who helped lay the foundation for what is now one of the one of the largest and most dynamic corporate entities in Jamaica and the Caribbean, the GraceKennedy Group.
Meticulously researched and sensitively written, Firstborn traces the beginnings of GK, over a century ago, introducing the initial founders of the company, Fred W. Kennedy and Dr John Grace; but is focused on the legacy of Luis Fred.
Following his father’s untimely death, Luis Fred was called upon to lead GK at age 21, and would go on to preside over its growth for the next 50 years. The book intricately weaves the stories of the family man, business leader and the company he led, and is supported by important vignettes of other GK stalwarts; including the late James Moss Solomon Sr, a founding father of GK, with whom Luis Fred co-managed the company for many years; and the late S. Carlton Alexander, Luis Fred’s protégé, who succeeded him as GK’s Chairman and CEO.
Speakers at the launch of Firstborn, which took place at the company’s headquarters in downtown Kingston, were GK Group CEO, Don Wehby; Chairman of GK and President of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Prof. Gordon Shirley; attorney-at-law, Rev. Ronald Thwaites; historian and author, Dr Swithin Wilmot; and the Firstborn’s author, Dr Fred Kennedy, who is also Chair of GKF. Cathrine Kennedy, General Manager of Hi-Lo Food Stores, who is also a Director of GKF and Dr Kennedy’s niece, was emcee.
During his welcome at the launch, Wehby emphasised the role Luis Fred played in the growth of GK in the 20th century. He noted that Luis Fred’s vision of GK becoming a global company listed on the Jamaica and the London Stock Exchanges was still unfolding several decades later. Wehby explained that GK had been listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange since 1986, and that listing the company on an international stock exchange was an important aspect of GK’s 2030 Vision.
“I thank Dr Fred Kennedy for the gift of Firstborn which serves as a reminder of where we are coming from, at a pivotal point in the company’s history. Today, there are over 50 companies in our Group, located across the globe in the Caribbean, Central America, North America and Europe. I am proud to be leading this great Jamaican company,” said Wehby.
In his remarks Prof. Shirley discussed the challenges Luis Fred grappled with during his early years at GK, including the local business community’s cynicism that he would be able to manage the company at such a young age. Rev. Thwaites spoke of Luis Fred’s belief in loyalty and trust as foundational principles, noting that under his leadership the company’s We Care ethos became an important aspect of GK’s business. Dr Wilmot focused on the socio-political context of Firstborn, sharing that Luis Fred emerged a champion of Jamaican workers amid the labour riots which took place in Jamaica in the 1930s.
Firstborn is published by Friesen Press of Canada (2022) and is available in both hardcover and softcover on Amazon. The book is also available locally at the Kingston Book Shop and Sangster’s Book Stores. All proceeds of the sales of Firstborn are being donated to GKF for the establishment of a scholarship at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) in the name of Luis Fred Kennedy.
Further information can be found on the author’s website: www.fredwkennedy.com