Businessman Donnie Smith dies at 67

Caymanian businessman and entertainment mogul Donovan “Donnie” Smith died unexpectedly on Saturday around 9:15 p.m., leaving four children and seven grandchildren.

Mr. Smith owned Cayman Fidelity Real Estate, but before that he had a decades-long career in entertainment in Jamaica and Cayman.

He was born in Jamaica on Jan. 19, 1951, and as a young man he managed a band there called Fab Five, and helped manage the nightclub Tit for Tat.

In 1976, Mr. Smith married Jacqui Tomlinson-Smith – who would be his wife for 25 years – and moved to Cayman. Here, he started several businesses, including the fashion stores Temptations and Pacesetter, and he would also help attract bands from abroad.

Mr. Smith was instrumental in starting the territory’s popular Cayman Batabano Carnival, spearheading the organization of the first festival in 1984.

“Thousands of spectators and dancers jammed into the Lions Centre on Saturday night as the final scene of Batabano came down,” states a May 1, 1984 article in the Caymanian Compass. “Organiser Donnie Smith summed it all up in three words he shouted above the crowds: ‘We did it.’”

Mr. Smith eventually left the entertainment and fashion industries in the early 2000s, starting Cayman Fidelity Real Estate around that time. Ms. Tomlinson-Smith explained that her former husband wanted a job that allowed him to be a family man.

“Partly because of being married with children, entertainment had to go,” she said. “He’d be out extremely late, and he wanted to be a better father.”

Along with entertainment and business, Mr. Smith made his mark in the local political scene, serving as a campaign manager and adviser to Linford Pierson for most of the legislator’s career.

Mr. Pierson described his friend as his “political right-hand man” and a “trusted confidant.”

He said the two met when Mr. Smith visited Cayman in 1975, and that they remained very good friends until his passing. When he found out about Mr. Smith’s death on Saturday night, Mr. Pierson said he immediately went to his house to be with the family.

“Words cannot express how I felt to see my friend of 43 years lying on his deathbed,” Mr. Pierson said.