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Jamaican billionaire buys Marley memorabilia

Thursday, May 27, 2004

TORONTO, Canada: Canadian mutual fund tycoon, Jamaican-born Michael Lee-Chin has agreed to purchase the world's largest collection of Bob Marley memorabilia and donate the more than 200,000 items to a yet-to-be-established National Museum of Jamaican Music, the Toronto Star reports.

"The Government of Jamaica is pleased with this singular act of the repatriation of the Marley legacy and looks forward to sharing it with the world," said Jamaica's culture minister, Maxine Henry-Wilson.

She said Marley created an identity for Jamaicans that has helped "increase their perception of themselves and pride in their heritage."

Selling the collection is California musicologist Roger Steffens.

Steffens told the Star he will serve as the new museum's curator emeritus. He declined to say how much Lee-Chin paid for his archives, except to say it was "a figure commensurate with 31 years of work."

The collection, which Steffens started in 1973, fills six rooms in his L.A. home and includes 12,000 records and CDs, 10,000 posters and flyers and 12,000 hours of tapes.

Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, formed the Wailers with friends Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh in the mid-'60s, and the band popularized reggae around the world with inspiring songs about love, spirituality, unity and liberation. The group split up in the early '70s to pursue solo careers and Marley became an international star.

Steffens said it took him three months to computerize his Marley inventory, to facilitate negotiations with Lee-Chin's foundation.

"I imagine by the end of the summer things will start leaving. My wife says it will probably be the closest I'll come as a man to post-partum depression," he said.

Lee-Chin is the chairman of AIC Ltd., one of Canada's largest mutual fund companies, and was recently ranked the world's 216th wealthiest person with a net worth of $2.4 billion (U.S.) by Forbes magazine.


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