Lesson from the diaspora...

A view of the participants and panel at the Jamaica Film Festival forum

MADISON... you really want to be in relationships with people who can support your dream 

Paula Williams Madison, a retired NBC executive of Jamaican parentage who now oversees a family empire at the Williams Group Holding Ltd urged Jamaicans to set up family businesses while quietly working for others in the private sector.

Do both concurrently, the journalist, media executive and serial investor advised participants at the Jamaica Film Festival in the Courtleigh Auditorium on Wednesday.

"I have a passion to be independently wealthy. I had a passion for fulfilling my parents' dream that we would all be independently wealthy," said Madison who became the first Black woman to head a network-owned station in one of the top-five markets of the US. "So while I was doing that planes crashed, building exploded and I got no sleep for 36 hours driving coverage. When I'm doing that I'm still managing the property I own to make sure everything is cool."

The Madison family settled in the economically-challenged US neighbourhood of Harlem in New York -- but eventually amassed wealth with interests in real estate, technology including a firm "capitalised at US$500 million", banking holdings, private equity holdings, entertainment with its holdings in the Africa Channel, and sports with its former ownership of the LA Sparks Womens National Basketball Association team which was reportedly sold in 2014 to Magic Johnson. The family utilises the Williams Group as the vehicle through which it invests. Other executives at the group include Elrick Williams, Lynai Williams Jones, Cartlon Jones and Roosevelt Madison.

"Particularly in [Black] families we don't have lots and lots of money. Some do but most of us don't. But what you hopefully can do is be careful of the company you keep and make good decisions about who are your girls and boys. Because you really want to be in relationships with people who can support your dream," she said in response.

Madison was one of five panelists who presented on the topic 'The Business of Filmmaking and the Future of TV' . Other panelists listed for that session moderated by JAMPRO president Diane Edwards included Dorian Gregory, Arthur Wylie, Bernard Stewart and Nicole Bernard.

Madison recalled disclosing her assets when applying to a high level job and getting a call to meet with the human resource manager to discuss her net worth.

"I don't think its relevant to this discussion," she recalled her response to the human resource manager. "I think what we are talking about is do I have any conflict of interests."

Madison avoided working on the Africa Channel projects while at NBC. The Madison family amassed wealth on various ventures but also reportedly lost millions between 2007 to 2014 on the Sparks team before Williams Group Ltd sold out.

"For me the definition of success is that I don't want to work for anybody," she told the audience.

The film festival runs between July 7 and 11 at three venues in Kingston.

Published Date: 
Friday, July 10, 2015