Entrepreneur Linton Tibbetts’ collection of Royal Doulton includes extremely rare pieces which celebrate the 50-year reign of Queen Victoria.
By Steven Knipp
Although he has enjoyed immense success in the US, Mr Tibbetts has never forgotten his humble roots, and over the decades he has pumped millions into both of the Sister Islands. In order to help kick start the Brac’s economy in the 1970s, for example, he built the first Brac Reef Hotel, and today his family owns the Little Cayman Beach Resort which boasts its own desalination plant, which provides 20,000 gallons of fresh water a day.
Mr Tibbetts is also the original director and is still on the board of the Little Cayman Power and Light Plant which generates some 2,200 Kilowatts of power, more than enough for the entire island. He also opened Little Cayman’s only supermarket, called the Village Store, which is now wildly popular with the island’s residents.
“People told me that I was crazy to open a store this size on Little Cayman, but you know this is probably one of the best investments I’ve ever made,” he said. And only last December, the Tibbetts Family donated more than US$200,000 towards the post-Hurricane Paloma recovery on the Brac.
Despite his name recognition and personal popularity both in Cayman and in Florida, Mr Tibbetts says that he would never dream of entering politics, “because you will either go broke or get in trouble with the law,” he says with a smile, adding, “most politicians waste a lot of money, especially when it is not their money. Mr McKeeva will have to run a tight ship for now, at least.”
When not hard at work Mr Tibbetts especially cherishes spending time with his grandchildren of whom he is immensely proud. And, following on the belief that where much is given, much is expected, he has helped them set up the Tibbetts Family Foundation.
“Several times a year, we all come together, me and all the grandchildren to see where funds are needed, and also where the best place is to invest to keep the family fund solvent,” he said.
Mr Tibbetts’ future plans call for the launch of yet another new company. Though he cagily declined to be drawn into details, he would allow that the new family firm, which will be based in St. Petersburg, Florida, will be called the Tibbetts Lumber Company; and it will likely be managed by his son-in-law Russ Brandis.
As ever, Linton Tibbetts’ timing seems impeccable: “You see, many of the major suppliers of lumber have left Florida [due to the downturn in housing] – and so this leaves space for us,”
Mr Tibbetts said. “ And so the idea is to steadily expand, as we did in the past.”
He notes that the lumber business has long been in the family veins: “My grandfather bought some of the worst land on the Brac – on purpose, because he was not really looking at the quality of the land itself, at the soil being valuable, but at the timber that was growing on it.”
Meanwhile, at the Cox Lumber plant in Cayman’s Industrial Park, the company’s truss plant is going great guns, producing the truss frames which allows buildings of one and two storeys to be constructed in record time, thanks to the pre-fabricated A-shaped wooden trusses.
The Cox truss plant can turn out truss frames to the exact specifications of its clients, thanks to the purchase of a fully operational X4 linear saw, made by Alpine Engineering of the US. The high-speed machine, the only one on the island, has the added feature of being able to cut compound angles and even instantly label each piece of wood for easy assembly into a truss. The device, which was bought two years ago, costs about $200,000, said Mr Tibbetts. Many of the newer condos built on or near Seven Mile Beach, include Comfort Suites, were built using the machine, he said.
When not working or with his family, Mr Tibbetts loves to fish off his boat, the Sol Mate. Asked how often, he says, “Whenever the weather is good. I’ve had a boat all my life, ever since I was a small boy, and I want to have one until I die.”
Aside from his love of his family and of the sea, Mr Tibbetts has also spent a life time collecting Royal Doulton China. And the best of his collection of cups and plates will take pride of place in the Little Cayman Museum; these include a compilation of commemorate pieces which mark the coronation of kings and queens of the British Empire, from Queen Victoria to Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Also on display in the Little Cayman Museum is an intriguing collection of woodworking tools of the type used by Mr. Tibbetts’ father to build sleek sailing ships, plus many photographs and paintings which show a Cayman which otherwise would only exist in memories of oldtimers.
A 1923 registry listing all the certified mail sent to Little Cayman is also on display. Helping his grandfather is Mr Tibbetts’ grandson Kyle Hooker, who says, “I’ve seen my grandfather’s passion for both museums and for preserving the heritage here, so my father and I have both become very involved to help him.”
Asked if all the historic items will be safely preserved from the elements inside the museum, Mr Tibbetts tells a heavily perspiring reporter, “Yes, this building has been purposely designed to do just that. In fact, I only put the air conditioner on for you.”
Mr Linton Tibbetts, OBE, is a man known for being many things besides his brilliant business mind — he’s a devoted husband; a lifetime philanthropist; a cherished father and grandfather; and a passionately proud Caymanian. Add to that partial list a man who is characteristically kind to everyone.