By Natalie Rotterman
Last month, thousands of Cubans got the exciting news that a free Rolling Stones concert had been confirmed, but not many people knew this was thanks to Gregory Elias, a successful lawyer from Curacao.
On March 25, almost 700,000 people gathered at Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva, plus approximately 450,000 in its perimeters for a free outdoor concert, that lasted more than two hours. The British band opened with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and ended with the smash hit “Satisfaction,” which had the crowd cheering and jumping for the familiar song.
This was frontman Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, drummer Charlie Watts and guitarist Ronnie Wood’s first-ever concert in the island since the band formed in 1962.
But who exactly is this man Elias, who reportedly paid over $7MM (which he didn’t confirm) for the big event to happen? Here’s what we know:
- He is a corporate lawyer from Curacao, who decided to contact the Rolling Stones manager, Jayne Smyth, last November 13 to suggest the concert, for which he’d cover the costs.
- He paid for the concert through his foundation, Bon Intenshon, which is committed to social betterment in Curacao (and other countries) through music, sports, and arts projects with a focus on youth.
- Elias is a humble man, who simply could not believe that Smyth had called him back in the next 24 hours of his call. “I mean, for God’s sake! I am no one!” he exclaimed. “I never thought she’d call me back.”
- He has a passion for rock, and rock festivals. Elias was already searching for cultural exchanges to help the Island reopen to the world, and that’s when the idea of contacting the Stones came to mind.
- He didn’t really know what was getting into. “Smyth informed me that when ‘the boys’ (as she referred to them) went on tour, ‘they only want the best, and it has to be better than everything else.’” “That meant flying everything from equipment to bottles of water from abroad.”
- He doesn’t like talking about money. When reporters asked about the financial details that went into the big event, Elias responded, “Please keep your indecent questions to yourselves,” before he burst out laughing. “Let’s just say it was not cheap.”