Fortress Investment Group Energetic Over Multiple Investments In Jamaica — Wes Edens

Jamaica Observer

January 29, 2017

Wes Edens has an impressive profile. The investment banker turned venture capitalist started Fortress Investment Group in 1998 — a firm which executes a range of investment strategies for more than 160 institutional investors and private clients around the world in private equity, credit, liquid markets and traditional asset management. 

Edens proudly notes that the firm started with a little more than US$400 million and 30 employees and now manages about US$72 billion worth of assets and 1200 employees.

Highly respected in his field with a reputation as shrewd but fair, Edens is often talked about in terms of his track record for building, improving and expanding on the businesses he buys, invests in and manages. His broad reach across sport, infrastructural development and economic growth has sometimes garnered Orwellian criticism — with an investigative

New York Times report last summer commenting on [questioning?] the company’s impact on legislation, the consumer and daily life.

Speaking with Edens, his manner is open and friendly. There is no sense of guarded responses being given and nary an inkling of a corporate overlord weaving a tangled web.

Edens’ tale of good old hard work done good is refreshingly honest and inspiring. He started in New York as an investment banker, starting the securities trading desk at Lehman Brothers on the securities trading desk as most essential to shaping his future, eventually rising in the ranks to managing director and partner at before the close.

"I left Lehman Brothers and went to Black Rock. It was a small money management company at the time. That’s where I raised the first fund. We did well and those guys are still friends. After that I decided the next logical step would be to set up my own company."

Edens is candid about what led to the Jamaica Liquefied Natural Gas project, and here sentiment or a love of reggae or culture plays no part.

"Two things we look for as investment attributes in the country: legal framework and regulatory framework.. We think that all the attributes for success exist in Jamaica.

We also look to make sure that we can deliver something of value to the country, [in this case] convert the energy business from burning heavy fuels to natural gas."

Edens discloses that the arrangement between Fortress Investment Group subsidiary New Fortress Energy to supply local energy company the Jamaica Public Service with LNG goes beyond converting the plant — the island’s first— in Bogue, as the intent is to totally lessen the island’s dependence on fossil fuels, hinting at a blueprint for the wider Caribbean.

"Subsequent to the gas terminal we are going to pursue two other projects on the other side of the island in Old Harbour. We will also provide fuel for the Old Harbour power plant with JPS, as well as another initiative not yet publicly available.

"That’s what we like to do, get into the country, make an initial investment and if successful branch out and do other things. In Jamaica there are many different opportunities..."

The New Fortress Energy 20-year supply deal has so far seen the completion of the plant in Bogue, a US$750-million investment shouldered solely by New Fortress Energy with the first shipment of gas arriving in October 2016.

As preparations are being made for building the next plant in Old Harbour, at a cost also borne by Fortress, local legislators and JPS President and CEO Kelly Tomblin have hailed the timely progress as essential to local development and positioning Jamaica as a central hub for processing and trading LNG within the Caribbean region...

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