Politics in The Bahamas isn’t for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. When your political party loses, there is an art to picking up one’s marbles. You can either gather them up with grace and strategy, intending to come back, when you have a bigger marble, a real marbley slinky. Or, you can pick up your little glass balls, kick up the dirt ring, and ‘suck your teeth’ as you go.
In 1967, Sir Stafford Sands, decided to ‘suck his teeth’ loudly, as he left. Stafford was so mad that his Party, the United Bahamian Party (UBP) had lost the general elections, he left the country. Actually, packed up, and left.
More than leaving, the big man, who was the consummate deal maker, shadow Premier and architect of the modern economic model of The Bahamas, liquidated a substantial part, maybe the most lucrative part, of his financial portfolio.
Stafford Sands sells City Markets, then, the biggest monopoly business in The Bahamas
Sir Stafford’s ‘mouth was so long’ (Bahamian slang for a farcical facial expression when you are really, really angry) that he sold the most lucrative monopoly in the entire Bahamas.
Since the late 1800s, those who controlled and distributed food imports, held a unique commercial monopoly, in the Islands. They had a captured market. Bahamians, in the 1960s, couldn’t just pop over to Miami every time they needed to buy a tin of cornbeef or a box of breakfast cereal.
As tourism, the second home market and the tastes of Bahamians increased, so have the amount and variety of food imports. Bahamians went from grits and flour cake to imported, canned goods and special cuts of meats, in a very short time. Tourism and the occasional economic boom, like the money made from rum running, aided the rise in the culinary tastes of Bahamians.
Also, as Bahamians left the agricultural fields, even traditional ingredients were imported.
All of this, is to point out that Stafford Sands enjoyed an incredible monopoly with City Markets. For him to sell this lucrative money maker, when he did, says a lot regarding his level of bitter resentment at losing the sweet nectar of political power.
In the wake of the January 1967 Bahamas General Elections, Stafford Sands sold his 11 branch City Markets food store chain to American chain, Winn Dixie. The deal was announced in May 1967 and completed by October 1967.
Blanket secrecy surrounded the amount that changed hands.