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Business Personality of the Year: Wilfred Espinet

Sunday, December 31, 2017

His name popped up at the start of the year for his involvement and role in the acquisition of TCL—the company that he still chairs—by Mexican cement behemoth Cemex.

He would later be appointed to the Petrotrin review committee that would be tasked with charting a course forward for the company.

In September, he would become the chairman of the challenged oil refinery.

Almost as a baptism of fire, he would be dragged into the “Fake Oil” scandal and questioned about the resignation of Petrotrin president Fitzroy Harewood.

Few can deny that for 2017, Wilfred Espinet stands out as the Business Personality of the Year.

Espinet’s involvement in the world of business spans more than four decades. Starting off at Sterling Drugs in 1967, Espinet would later join forces with Arthur Lok Jack, and in 1971, the two would form a company called United Marketing.

In 1974, he would play an instrumental role with Lok Jack and other investors in building Associated Brands Limited (Sunshine Snack, Charles Cholocate) into the snack powerhouse that it is today, and for a number of years he oversaw the company’s operation on the island of Malta.

Espinet also served as the president of the T&T Manufacturers Association in 1987.

He is also the chairman of Aeromarine, one of the largest shipping and logistics companies in the region, and Mayfair, a regional distributor for cosmetics and female garments. Questioned about what he believes to be the key factors for success in business Espinet said: “Ethics, analytical thinking, and hardwork. These are the key factors according to my definition of succeeding in business.” Probed about what drives him, Espinet pointed out that “the pleasure that one derives from doing a job well” has always been his strongest source of motivation.

“I am motivated by success, not money” he said. 2018 is likely to be quite a challenging year for the 73-year old businessman.

Confronting the realities of Petrotrin, and working through potential solutions that are in the best interest of the company, and by extension the country, are among some of the main issues Espinet will have to address in the new year. A rabid union, constrained financial space, and significant US-dollar denominated debt await the chairman and his board in 2018.

Time will tell how this drama will unfold, but for 2017, Wilfred Espinet carries the title of Business Personality of the Year.


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