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Shangri-La founder Robert Kuok’s memoirs

Alex Yap, Henry Lim Bon Liong, Sammy Uy and Michael Tan at the Marcos- Manglapus wedding in Paoay Church

All businesspeople, professionals, and leaders should read the unprecedented release of 94-year-old Shangri-La Hotel chain founder, the world’s 54th wealthiest billionaire, Malaysian business leader Robert Kuok Hock Nien’s memoirs. On achieving success, Kuok says, “More than 90 percent is hard work, the rest is luck.” More excerpts are accessible online via Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper.

Kuok’s brilliance, strategic thinking and success in brand-building is similar to that of the Philippines’ 91-year-old JG Summit Holdings, Inc. founder John Gokongwei Jr. who recently received the “Management Man of the Year” Award from Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

Both Kuok and Gokongwei started as talented commodity traders, but built companies and popular brands like Shangri-La and Cebu Pacific Air.




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Being good vs. being greedy

On Nov. 25, the new book Robert Kuok, A Memoir went on sale in Hong Kong exclusively at Bookazine and in Singapore at all major bookshops. It was released in Malaysia on Dec. 1 and will be released in Indonesia on Jan. 1, 2018.

I encourage the Ramos family of the National Book Store chain and Jaime Daez of Fully Booked to launch this book here in the Philippines.

By the way, Daez’s 99-year-old aunt, Dr. Milagros Sevilla, is the hardworking owner of Merced Bakeshop along EDSA near Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. Sevilla is an original investor with the Clemente family in Quezon City’s Capitol Medical Center, which was recently sold to the owners of Unilab, now run by the heirs of the late Jose Yao Campos with the heirs of his late business partner/treasurer, Mariano Tan.

Debunking the wrong notion that business success at all costs or via dishonest shortcuts is okay, the highly respected Kuok said, “My mom knows that I am somehow a talented businessman, but she would not want me to turn to the dark side and be an evil businessman. She advised us to be a good person, and not be greedy about money.”

Becoming multinational

Kuok reportedly decided to move out of Malaysia to avoid stifling political cronyism, so he set up his headquarters in Hong Kong, where there’s more meritocracy and where he built his multinational conglomerate.

Kuok admired leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Deng Xiaoping and Genghis Khan. In moving to Hong Kong, he was actually similar to Mongol leader Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan, who moved to Beijing and established the Chinese-style Yuan Dynasty, which became world history’s biggest multinational empire.

Kuok is an enlightened capitalist, while his late elder brother William Kuok was a member of the Malaysian Communist Party who died fighting for his ideological cause in 1952.

In the Philippines, we have an almost similar case, with “Fishing King” Francis Tiu Laurel of Frabelle Fishing and Frabelle Foods as a top capitalist, while younger brother and now top food exporter Henson Tiu Laurel was a former UP Diliman philosophy teacher and rebel jailed during martial law, while another brother, Herman Tiu Laurel, is a social democrat activist who once volunteered to head the Bataan Refugee Processing Center and is now Phil-BRICS Institute head.

Accurately described in Forbes magazine’s 1993 cover story as the “World’s Shrewdest Businessman — Asia’s Sugar King,” Kuok has succeeded in creating an Asian luxury property brand, Shangri-La. His Shangri-La hotels all over the Philippines are flourishing; the Summer Palace restaurant alone in Edsa Shangri-La is probably Metro Manila’s best high-end Chinese restaurant and ably run by his Malaysian manager, Nancy Farm.

The cosmopolitan Kuok speaks fluent English, Malay and five Chinese dialects, including Mandarin. Kuok used to own Hong Kong’s English-language South China Morning Post, which became the world’s most profitable newspaper before he eventually sold it to tycoon Jack Ma. Former Marcos -era Trade and Industry Minister Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin used to serve as his vice chairman at SCMP.

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At the Nov. 25 wedding celebration of Atty. Michael Ferdinand Marcos and Cara Manglapus at historic Paoay Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, many top business leaders were among the guests who attended the elegant, outdoor plaza Ilocano-style dinner reception prepared by the groom’s mother, Governor Imee Marcos, who half-jokingly said, “This is the first-ever wedding in my life, because I’m more expert in tanan (eloping).”

A tycoon said, “This unique wedding of a grandson of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and a granddaughter of his political rival, the late Senator Raul Manglapus — can this augur well for future political peace in the Philippines.”

The many top businesspeople at the wedding dinner were unanimous in their bullish sentiments about 2018 being prosperous for the fast-growing Philippine economy. Among these included Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. COO/Pilmico flour mill president Sabin Aboitiz; top contractor and DMCI president Jorge Consunji; realty tycoon and Governor Imee Marcos’ brother-in-law Gregorio “Greggy” Araneta III; LT Group, Inc. president/PAL treasurer/Asia Brewery, Inc. COO Michael G. Tan (he said this was his first trip to Ilocos Norte and was impressed with its economic potential); Davao tycoon Sammy Uy; Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) EVP Henry Lim Bon Liong and VP Alex Yap; 165-year-old Destileria Limtuaco’s CEO and Asian Dragon magazine publisher Olivia Limpe Aw and businessman husband Benny Aw; Richwell Trading Corp. CEO Myrna Tang Yao with Inner Wheel Club past president Nellie King; Foton Philippines chairman/United Auctioneers Inc. bosses Rommel and Kenneth Sytin, etc.  

Destileria Limtuaco CEO Olivia Limpe Aw thanks Department of Science & Technology (DOST) Secretary, professor Fortunato T. de la Peña, and his officials like regional director Jose “Jojo” Patalinjug III, for agreeing to provide technical advice to her family’s first-ever foray into the food business, a mangosteen jam factory in war-torn Sulu province due to the call of President Duterte and GoNegosyo head Joey Concepcion to help that region.

Secretary De la Peña introduced Aw to various SME entrepreneurs whom DOST has assisted to use technology for their business, such as Amanda’s bagoong factory owner Amanda T. Battad of Balanga City, Bataan province, who now supplies sautéed shrimp paste or bagoong alamang to Chowking, Mang Inasal, Goldilocks, Cabalen and Marisco. De la Peña urges businesses to tap science and technology.

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Who is President Duterte’s close friend long before he even became Davao mayor, Samuel “Sammy” C. Uy? He is different from another Duterte Davao friend, Dennis Uy of Phoenix Petroleum. Sammy Uy accompanied Duterte to his bilateral meeting with Japan Premier Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. Uy owns the poultry and layer farms firm called Davao Farms Corp., the tertiary hospital called Ricardo Limso Medical Center and DIMDI, and two hotels called My Hotel and Hotel Uno. He also owns DIMDI, a retailer of appliances, furniture, motorcycles and home furnishings.

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Congratulations to International Chamber of Commerce Philippines founding chairman and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman emeritus Francis Chua for recently bringing honor to the Philippines by being invited and elected to join Board of Trustees of China’s prestigious Fujian Normal University based in Fuzhou City. He is an industrial engineering (cum laude honors) graduate of UP Diliman, where he also served as member of the board of regents. He is also honorary president of the FFCCCII.

When asked for his success strategies, Chua said, “Hard work and discipline. When I was transferred from a provincial school to Xavier School, the Jesuit priest told my late father I would only be accepted on condition that dad hire a special tutor to guide me. My father told the Jesuit that he had confidence that I had no need for a tutor and that I could cope with the high standards of this school. I was very motivated through those years; I never watched TV or went to the movies, but studied very diligently.” Chua not only coped, he graduated at the top of his batch.

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Nielsen Philippines has a new country manager, Patrick Cua, a talented corporate leader previously with another multinational firm’s Singapore office. Cua is also executive vice president of the Anvil Business Club, also known as the Association of Young Filipino Chinese Entrepreneurs, now led by president Reynold Siy.

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Congrats to the businesspeople behind the Rotary Club of Ermita, led by Lebanese entrepreneur Imad Ammar, for their civic project to solve the polio problem with a fundraising art exhibit by painter Kenneth Montegrande. Manila’s fifth district Councilor Irwin C. Tieng and I were among those invited for the ribbon-cutting at Lotus Garden Hotel. His father William Tieng is chairman of BYD and his uncle Wilson Tieng is boss of Solar Entertainment. The Tieng family and the Henry Sy family of SM Group proposed developing a new airport at Sangley Point in Cavite.

The Tieng family is also the Philippine distributor of China’s BYD electric vehicles manufacturer, a high-tech company backed by the world’s wealthiest investor, Warren Buffett.

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Thanks for your feedback! Email or Follow @wilsonleeflores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, read my blog Listen also to my radio show at Radio Veritas Mondays to Fridays 5:30 p.m., AM 846 kHz, online live-stream & Cignal TV channel 313, “Pandesal Forum sa Veritas.”

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