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Vann O. Ferguson, was born in Nassau Bahamas as Van O. Ferguson to parents Devard & Fredericka Ferguson, an ardent well respected Jehovah’s Witness family. He adopted the additional ‘n’ to his name as a radio personality ploy in 1991 when launching his radio broadcasting career in the Bahamas. Mr. Ferguson has often told friends that the idea of the “double n” came to him as CNN aired 24 hours on the local TV 13 station due to the ongoing Golf war at the time. The CNN logo appearing at the bottom of the screen created the idea of a ‘hook’ as “V A Double N” to differentiate himself from the senior announcers he met on the air at the state run ZNS Radio Bahamas. Names as Gordon Lowe, Tony Williams, and Hubert G all had several years’ on-air experience and popularity in the small Bahamas market ahead of Vann, however the V A Double N slogan appeared to have been the catalyst to build his brand quickly as the new comer and fit in competitively with his colleagues taking him beyond the Bahamas borders to being on the air in South Florida. Being a radio personality came natural to Vann, although he spent several months in 1979 at a vocational broadcast school in Chicago, he really credits his parents, relatives and upbringing in the family’s religious organization as the real reason for his success as a favourite radio personality. Vann says both his parents have naturally great sounding voices, the gift of being great conversationalist and they worked hard to train him from youth as a public speaker in the organization. Additionally, Vann grew up with aspirations of being a broadcaster, following the footsteps of his first cousin Max Dean who enjoys a popular career in the industry that started at the state owned ZNS at least a decade ahead of his tenure there as well. He remembers as a youth from middle school era, being fascinated by the voice of Carl Bethel host of the afternoon top 40 show on the state AM station and having tremendous admiration for the late Jeff Scavella, the undeniable dominant radio personality of the late 60’s and the 70’s in the Bahamas. Dick Clark referred to music as the sound track of people’s lives, Vann definitely was a part of the Bahamian sound track as a friendly radio voice of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Fans still reminisce about his smooth presentation and music selections. At the height of his popularity, Vann represented major Bahamian companies commercially and was a leading choice of concert promoters to host shows, interview stars and promote events. In 1993, FOXY 1040, an urban AC AM station in South Florida that held a number 2 spot in the market, recruited him as the new 6 – 10pm evening Jock. The stint was short lived (3 months) as private radio licenses had just broke in the Bahamas and the first to receive a license; The Tribune, launched 100 Jamz with the help of South Florida radio consultant Bill Tanner. Tanner built a broadcast studio in Davie Florida and hired Vann to host the afternoon drive on 100 Jamz via satellite. The station was an immediate hit with Bahamians who had grown up with only the state owned ZNS radio, the new clean digital sound, promotion of “more music less talk” and filling popular dayparts with experienced talents as Eric D, Brendalee and V A Double N, (Vann) the Tribune’s new radio station was overwhelmingly accepted. 100 Jamz was further catapulted as ‘the hit station” when garnering the Caribbean Muzik Festival promotional contract, a regional annual concert franchise that ran for five consecutive years in the Bahamas. Vann was the official promotional voice of the event. After only a year with the Tribune, Vann launched his own broadcast studio in South Florida, CSRN (Caribbean Satellite Radio Network). The studio was located off the Palmetto Expressway in North Miami, situated just doors away from Miami’s popular 99 Jamz urban radio station. The idea being to take advantage of celebrity guest usually attracted to the Miami number 1 urban radio station. September 24, 1994, V A Double N & The Morning House Crew was the first show to air on Love 97 via satellite from the studio. Businessman and journalist Wendell Jones obtained the second private radio station license in the Bahamas and launched Love 97. Vann recruited burgeoning journalist Christina Thompson, tagged her the radio name of Chrissy Love and together they made an impact on the Bahamian audience with a new brand of morning drive programming comprised of conversation, phone calls, celebrity guest and urban ac music. During the tenure of the short lived venture, memorable celebrity guest included Philip Michael Thomas star of TV’s Miami Vice, Dwight Lauderdale, Miami’s Channel 10 news anchor, Spencer Christian, ABC’s Good Morning America’s Co Anchor, Dorothy Panza, former ZNS news anchor then living in the USA and Professor John McCartney, a Bahamian political activist (Vanguard party) also living and teaching in the USA at the time. CSRN was financially supported by an investment group headed by Vann’s childhood friend Dr. Charles Diggiss. The Doctor’s analytical accountant surmised the venture aimed at attracting US client advertising to play on Bahamian radio as high risk, not capable of a ROI in a reasonable time, pulled the plug after six months, though a Miami Herald feature story quoted Sawgrass Mills and Aventura Mall executives that promised a budget for the broadcast entity in the new year. STATION BROADCASTS PROGRAM TO BAHAMAS Publication: Miami Herald, The (FL) Author: WILLIAM T. McGee Herald Staff Writer Date: October 16, 1994 Section: NEIGHBORS NC Page: 2 Word Count: 422 Vann Ferguson and Christina Thompson, the brains and voices behind a satellite radio operation in Carol City, consider themselves radio pioneers. Their Caribbean Satellite Radio Network has begun beaming programming to listeners in the northern Bahamas. Ferguson, who has worked several jobs as deejay and radio announcer in South Florida since 1991, started CSRN to try to cash in on tourist traffic between South Florida and the islands of the Caribbean. Six months ago, he hired... Both Vann and Chrissy Love continued their association and employment with Love 97. Chrissy went on to launch her talk show career as the first official host of the popular Love 97 “Issues of The Day” radio talk show and Vann went on to have a 13-year stint with Love 97 commuting between Florida and the Bahamas. By 1997, Mr. Ferguson built another radio studio in the USA, this time in Ft. Lauderdale called IBN Radio. From those facilities, he produced a music filled midday show for Love 97 and a talk show on Miami based WAXY 790 AM. It was during the era of the Cuban youth Elian Gonzalez being held in South Florida. The controversy led to good radio ratings as Vann explored the opportunities to evolve from radio personality to talk show host. Vaughn, his teenage son and recent high school graduate were the duo host of the Midday Cruisin Show on Love 97 billed as V A Double N & VF01. From the IBN Radio studios they spearheaded the lead sponsorship and broadcast of the 1998 Caribbean Muzik Festival for Love97and hosted the first of its kind town hall meeting in Broward with major tourism and business executives of South Florida and the Bahamas that explored opportunities in both markets. However, his broadcasting accomplishments was preceded by a career in engineering and early stints as an entrepreneur. A high school graduate of Queens College he graduated C R Walker vocational school in 1972 and gained employment at the phone company BTC as an outside plant engineer. He shared his time with youth building development programs, promotions, professional photography and feature writing for the newspapers. A founding member of The Bahamas Youth Talent Association with high school friends Mary Reckley, Rufus Johnson and Gaynel Hanna-Ellis, they produced several community events including their signature annual high school talent competition. The group and its events were aimed at nurturing young Bahamian raw talent in the music industry and spurned some noteworthy talents after like the Sweet Exorcist band that virtually toured the world, Kendal Stubbs, who works internationally in studio for major record labels, Obie Pindling’s Visage dance band, Portia Butterfield entertainer and musician Union executive and Billboard artist Johnny Kemp are among a list of noteworthy alumnus of the ten-year youth program. Vann was a founding contributor to the Tribune’s Youth Beat weekly, he was privileged to interview and publish the first feature story on a new portfolio and ministry initiated by the Pindling Administration, Ministry of Youth Sports & Culture and its first Minister The Hon. Kendal Nottage in 1977. By the following year, Vann’s body of work in youth programs and feature stories in the newspapers propelled him before the new Ministry of Youth where he was hired as a Youth Officer. The appointment was to take effect in October of 1978. During the summer of the same year, Vann was privileged to make an acquaintance with the world famous Commodores. The group was riding high with several chart topping songs. He flew into Atlanta and met Benny Ashburm, the founding manager, Lionel and the entire crew. A promoter whose name is recalled now only as Mr. White hosted the Commodores annually in Atlanta over the US labour day holiday and another individual recalled now only as Phillip assisted a bonding Vann built at the time that afforded him special passes back stage for the event that night at the Omni. He had breakfast at the Hyatt in Atlanta the following morning with the group where the agreement was concluded to add the Bahamas as a stop on the Commodores US tour. He recalls Benny sizing up the event as to how easily it could be done and where it would be fitted in the schedule. The idea was to add a night after another Georgia performance and before they all scattered for their break on the tour. With an agreement in hand and request to have a chartered plane available the Tuesday morning after a Monday night performance in Georgia, to transport the group directly to Nassau in the Bahamas. Benny did not want them to use regular commercial flights. With two weeks to make it all happen, he returned promptly to Nassau, secured the Crown Ball Room on Paradise Island, got the promotion started and visited the offices of Bahamas World on Fredrick Street to secure the charter flight necessary to transport the group. In the offices he remembers having conversations with a Mr. McDonald and Mr. Bannister assuring him the flight was feasible and booked. However, no money was exchanged at that time. Sunday prior to the event, Benny Ashburn arrived in Nassau and was greeted by a press core that published his photo on the front page of the Monday morning Guardian, as this was becoming a giant of an event for the Bahamas. Benny and Vann toured the Crown Ball room and he sent the specs to his team as to what equipment was being required, which for them was a small ballroom. On the Monday morning, Vann revisited Bahamas World Airline to pay for his chartered flight. This is where the problems begun. The flight was no longer available to make the trip! The plane had been used for another charter and it was lost! A whole plane lost!! This was the Bahamas World Airline plane that went lost at sea! Among the crew, was a friend Pearl Lowe, a beautiful person inside and out. While it was not immediately known the plane was lost at sea, there was obvious disarray at the airlines office that morning where the staff was the least helpful and tolerant of Vann’s group and certainly did not have a charter flight for them to pay for. This was disastrous for the event! Benny had arranged that the band would wait outside the airport on their tour bus in Georgia for the arrival of the plane to bring them to Nassau. On learning of the flight issues, the band scattered for their personal days off break although another plane had been secured from Florida and was on the way, it was too late! When word of the non-appearance of the Commodores reached Nassau, it was a catastrophe! Pat Paul Men’s store was the main ticket outlet. Pat was always a supporter of Vann events that until then enjoyed reasonable success as his ticket venue. Interest in the Commodores was extremely high and ticket sales were good. Unfortunately, Pat had already begun releasing ticket sales funds to Vann which was being spent to make things happen for the event. Therefore, when patrons rushed his store for refunds it created a chaos! For the next several days the media had a field day on the fiasco of the Commodores no show, patrons pressured Pat Paul for refunds and haunted Vann to make good on refunding advance ticket sales. Weeks later, an official ticket refund was organized at Attorney Orthland Bodie office downtown with the assistance of Vann’s uncle George Smith. Smith, a concerned family member bothered by the bad press of his nephew, used his authority and credibility to attain the funds necessary for a full refund. However, the fiasco and publicity of the concert no-show had a long lasting effect. When Vann showed up for his first day as a Youth Officer at the Ministry of Youth, he was immediately summoned to the Minister’s office where Minister Nottage fired him on the spot! Claiming he could not have him in his ministry in light of the Commodores fiasco. Vann was unemployed! That was 1978, married two years and with a young son, Mr. Ferguson eventually gained employment as a photographer at the Bahamas News Bureau. It was his second stint at the organization having been there as a summer student in the early seventies. However, for him the job was unfulfilling and by the next year he left the Bahamas and went to broadcast school in the USA. It was while there that he got the inspiration for a new entrepreneurial venture. By 1982 he introduced a cheque guarantying system to the Bahamas that he named Chekard, the program was entirely new to the country. He studied and researched the system operated by Jewel & Dominick’s in Chicago used to manage cheque acceptance, returns and collections as his prototype. Vann designed the same to operate in New Providence via the issuance of a credit card like identification card for consumers to use while shopping. The concept charged participating stores a per cheque fee of all cheque transactions as a means of protection from financial loss. It was a risk management program used to hedge against the risk of uncertain loss due to returned cheques. Mr. Ferguson worked with a Chicago graphic artist to come up with a logo that placed an “OK” check over a pattern of checkerboard blocks and arranged the phrase ‘Check card’ as a one-word brand; CheKard, then tagged the company slogan as “courtesy & convenience card” to sell the idea to this virgin market as to the intended use of the card. His young son (Vaughn, age 5 at the time) fresh from spending three years in the USA and possessing a cute American/Bahamian accent was introduced as the face and voice of Chekard marketing, attempting to show how using the card made issuing cheques locally so simple. His tag line “I sign my name Vaughn and I go” was to emphasize how fast and simple CheKard made issuing cheques to local stores. Grossly underfunded, Mr. Ferguson launched the card October 1982. His original funding came from a computer trade show and seminar he produced in February of that year. It was the first trade show of its size and type that attracted hundreds of attendees from local corporations. Company employees were engaged in seminar sessions that swelled over from the host hotel Holiday Inn on Paradise Island to the Flagler Inn hotel meeting rooms as well. It was an exciting time as the era of desktop computers was finding a place in small business. Local companies as Amoury’s made business connections on product lines that they still carry today, Xerox made their introduction to product lines beyond the copier, IBN, usually a quiet conservative company known for their impact on big business was first to purchase massive floor space and show off their new product lines of PC’s and Mr. Ferguson was able to demonstrate the “Fax Machine”, a new phenomenon in business at the time comprising then of two big machines using rolls of emulsion paper! Launching CheKard in the Bahamas had more than its share of challenges. Prior to its introduction, cheques were accepted at supermarkets and local stores only on a familiarity basis. Managers took a personal evaluation on having seen the shopper several times and taking into account their job etc., to take on the risk of accepting the cheques. This created a class scenario where certain family names would be hurt if their cheques were ever questioned or denied and it also created a nightmare for collection of returned cheques. Super Value & Portion Control methodology were more relaxed than their competitor City Market and it showed, where each having about 10 stores and Portion Control 2, City Market annual losses of returned cheques was less than $100,000 annually while the others were way out of whack in the hundreds of thousands! Although Mr. Reginald Sands, Controller at Super Value, claim to value CheKard services, he hesitated to enforce CheKard policies for fear of alienating their ‘A’ list customers. it was not until Mr. Jim Bradley, the Manager of City Markets called the three supermarket chains together endorsing CheKard, requesting his competitors unite as a group to enforce the use of the card at their stores that sparked the program to take off. Mr. Bradley, a supermarket executive from the Winn Dixie chain in the USA, was familiar with the cheque management system and was CheKards strongest proponent during his tenure as head of the City Market chain. As a member of one of the service clubs, he often commented on the chiding he would take at their weekly meetings over his support for CheKard. Mr. Bradley kept a framed copy of Sideburns cartoon that satirically drew a church usher asking the parishioner putting a cheque in the collection plate for their CheKard on his desk. From the inception in 1982, it took until the summer of 1984 to achieve that endorsement and commitment for the supermarket “must have a CheKard” support. Mr. Ferguson had fought many objections to his program. The Tribune initially had run a story with the writer claiming to have spoken with a banker who said the program was a fraud. On the eve of all supermarkets requiring mandatory use of the card, Central Bank Governor Bill Allan had Mr. Ferguson summoned by police escort for a meeting as he was concerned CheKard “would affect the payment system”. The Mandatory requirement by the supermarkets grew the card holder base from 1000 to 10,000 immediately! The cards were sponsored by each of the supermarkets bearing their names and given out free to customers. The support of the supermarkets aided the confidence of the local merchant base that grew from some 20 stores to 100 within months participating and accepting CheKards. That overnight growth brought its own challenges as the underfunded entity Mr. Ferguson launched did not have the funding to meet the demands of 10,000 cheque writers. Mr. Bradley rescued the company again by convincing Super Value and Portion Control to provide funding and buy into the company, he claimed City Market wouldn’t be able to participate financially as owners because it was an American entity (Winn Dixie) but they certainly would remain a client. Tyrone D’Arville, managing principal of Portion Control spearheaded the negotiations. He brought in Rupert Roberts Jr of the Super Value brand and introduced Mr. Ferguson to Brock Cole, a principal of the Cole insurance company as someone interested in being a part of the investment group. Mr. Ferguson, a young entrepreneur of 27 was elated to be in the company of and in business with these renowned Bahamian businessmen. Mr. D’Arville sold him on the idea of selling two thirds of his company shares. Emphasizing that no single shareholder would be a majority owner adding of course that the supermarkets wouldn’t want to own the business, just ensure its stability. The final makeup of the new CheKard was; Mr. Ferguson with a third, Super Value & Portion Control together owning a third and the Coles Insurance group owning another third. The partnership ran its course for more than a year. The deal was secured in the summer of 1984, Brock Cole wrote a cheque immediately for $20,000 to help with working capital and Rupert Roberts gave a verbal and later written authority to guarantee overdraft facilities at CIBC. Within the course of the ensuing year, CheKard operated with Mr. Ferguson as Managing Director and four clerical staff. They prepared weekly stop list, called debtors for collection, mailed collection letters, and issued new cards. Mr. Reginald Sands, Super Value Controller, was friendly with Sammy Sands and in 1985 Sammy Sands (an individual Mr. Ferguson knew only in passing because he had negotiated Bahamasair joining the Chekard program with him) lost his long term job with Bahamasair. His friend Reginald Sands an executive with Super Value used his influence to hire Sammy at Chekard as an Accountant. Within months of the new partnership with the new shareholders, Mr. Ferguson was coming to the realization that his authority and control was being undermined and minimized in the company he started and the reality of what his third shareholdings meant was becoming very apparent. By the summer of 1985 there were 10,000 free cardholders in the company’s database. Mr. Ferguson sought to increase revenue by adding on services that card holders would be willing to pay for. He told his partners that most of those cardholders were still unwilling to simply pay for a card to write cheques, he theorized that they were just getting through a learning curve of using this identification system to write cheques, so in his opinion if they were motivated by additional benefits, he projected that fifty percent of them would be willing to pay a fee for the card since initially being given the card free. The paid cards would be a revenue stream while the paid or unpaid cardholders were always a revenue stream by the mere use of the card since the company earned fees on every transaction. Ferguson worked with the local and international NCR Company to launch the country’s first ATM. (before local banks introduced them) Moving on the idea to sell customers a Silver embossed card that beyond the ability to write cheques and looking impressive in their wallets, it also gave them the privilege of cashing cheques using the ATM and getting cash when they needed it. The idea was “out of the box” for the time as there were no ATM’s on the island and certainly no cheque cashing stores. The project progressed to the point of having the first demo model installed at City Market Rosetta Street and promotional materials prepared for distribution to cardholders. Brock, Sammy and Reginald were pushing the idea to charge all 10,000 cardholders $25 annually. Ferguson stood his grounds that the market wasn’t ready to pay without having additional benefits and the silver card with the ATM was the way to go! Mr. Ferguson claims that a spirit of undermining engulfed the firm as Reginald and Sammy Sands appeared to be wrestling the daily control of the operations, notwithstanding that simultaneously other business associates in the community held side bar conversations with Mr. Ferguson questioning the wisdom of his relinquishing two thirds of his company and questioning the motives of the partners he was involved with. In a move to act on the growing fear of being pushed out his business, Mr. Ferguson held meetings with Citi Bank and Barclays Bank and initiated terms to obtain financing that would have qualified him to purchase controlling shares. In a meeting with the shareholders by December of 1985, he sought their approval to do so. Rupert Roberts response was: it was fine by him, he only participated to save the venture but if Mr. Ferguson thought he found sufficient financing to buy his shares (1/3rd) he was willing to sell. The arrangement would have left only Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Cole in the company with the Coles Insurance group in the minority position. A phrase from history comes to mind that seems to fit, that was: “a day of infamy”! what made Mr. Ferguson so elated turned out to be the biggest disappointment and stress he had ever experienced in his life! Mr. Ferguson left that meeting feeling he had accomplished the impossible, he had regained the ownership and control of his company and a the company still had the support of all the supermarkets, what a great premise! When he speaks of that time, he says he remembers the day well, how he went immediately to call his mom and give her the good news of getting control of his company back and her first question will always haunt and guide his future decisions. She asked, “did they put it in writing yet?” in exuberation he responded, “no, no, they said we’ll do that tomorrow” Well, as you would surmise by now, tomorrow for Mr. Ferguson never came. His wife Delores worked in the office part time as a data entry clerk, while there the following morning as Mr. Ferguson was over at Citibank working on his financing, she claims to have heard Sammy Sands on the phone. The one sided conversation she heard has Sammy telling the other end, “not to move on this too fast because he has some ideas” The next few days were filled with tension in the office as Sammy always had to leave to have meetings with Reginald at Super Value, and that follow up shareholder meeting never happened. The Guardian newspaper got wind of something going on at Chekard and published a front page story of how the CheKard founder was being pushed out of his company. The following day the shareholder group rallied behind Rupert Roberts in a quickly summoned meeting that included Brock’s brother an attorney and Sammy a non-shareholder. The point of the meeting was not identified other than the group being enraged at being mentioned in the media and wanting to deal with their Managing Director. What was apparent was a “lynching” type atmosphere directed at Mr. Ferguson. He taped the meeting from a recorder in his pocket unknown to the group and when played later for attorneys they too summarized that he was in a no win situation. At the meeting Ferguson attempted to respond to angry questions put to him by either Reginald Sands or Rupert and when it was apparent this was not a meeting aimed at solving anything or getting reasonable answers, Ferguson expressed the same and told them he was leaving to which Rupert responded “If you leave you will be fired!”. He left and he was fired! From the company he brought to these same shareholders. Looking back at that time in history, what Mr. Ferguson deduced is; he was not well networked and experienced to deal with that level of hijacking. He had no allies that he could count on as support to assist him through what would seem his darkest moments. He first approached a family friend that was an attorney who after understanding the situation excused herself from being involved claiming it’s not her area of law. Then calling on school friends that were attorneys, one was headed overseas to be married, the other when identifying the Coles were involved excused himself and eventually Thomas Evans became the attorney. Though Attorney Evans provided a place for Mr. Ferguson to vent and be consoled, he like everyone else never seemed to have a fighting attitude when it came to confronting the group that hid behind Rupert Roberts Jr. He was the outspoken self-appointed leader of the group. In the end, all that was accomplished, was Evans assisted in the selling of Vann shares to Marvin Pinder for a mere $55,000.


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