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Razon sells Manila Standard Today to Romualdez group


MANILA, Philippines - Businessman Enrique K. Razon, owner of the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), has sold the Manila Standard Today newspaper to Leyte Congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez for P75 million to P100 million.

Razon confirmed the sale at ICTSI’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday. He said he sold his shares in Manila Standard Today to the group that owns the Journal Group of Companies. Razon is the chairman and president of ICTSI.

“They (referring to the Journal Group) know the business more than me,” Razon said.

The STAR tried but failed to get a comment from Rep. Romualdez, who is currently in the US with President Arroyo for the 47-nation summit hosted by US President Barack Obama.

Romualdez is the son of former Ambassador and Leyte Governor Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez. His brother, Benjamin Philip, is the president and chief executive officer of mining firm Benguet Corp., president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and is married to Alexandra “Sandy” Prieto, who is the president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Business insiders said Romualdez is not the real buyer of the newspaper and is just fronting for a very well-known, influential personality.

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The Journal Group is one of the country’s biggest group of daily tabloids – People’s Journal, People’s Tonight and People’s Taliba – and magazine Women’s Journal.

The Manila Standard Today reportedly ranks a distant fourth or fifth in the English broadsheet industry. Initially established as The Manila Standard, it merged with another newspaper, Today, on March 6, 2005, the first newspaper merger in the Philippines.

When asked about his decision to divest his entire ownership in Manila Standard Today, Razon said: “I just realized that the newspaper business is not a growing business. I’d rather focus on an industry that is growing.” He bought Manila Standard in 1997.

Razon, one of the 10 richest men in the country, said the power and entertainment sectors look very promising to him. Just last week, Razon announced he was taking over Bloombury Investments Holdings, Inc. from businessman Jose Alvarez. Bloombury is one of the four companies that were awarded by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to operate in an integrated casino-entertainment complex project on an 85-hectare reclaimed land along Manila Bay.

Razon said Bloombury will spend $100 million for the initial phase of the project with the construction expected to start in the third quarter this year. Total investment requirement was placed at $400 million.

Once completed, the complex will include two five-star luxury hotel towers of more than 1,000 rooms within a world-class entertainment and convention facility. The ultra modern complex is expected to be fully operational in two years and hopes to draw in large groups of tourists.

The project is expected to stimulate growth not only in the hotel and restaurant sector, but also in the construction and services sectors.

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