Bong Tan’s prized roles: Who gets what?
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Taipan Lucio Tan continues to reorganize his sprawling business empire to fill the gaps left by the death of his son Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr.

This week, Tan’s property arm Eton Properties Philippines announced the appointment of Bong’s younger sister Karlu Tan Say as its new COO.

Karlu will steer the real estate arm of the Lucio Tan Group where she concurrently serves as a director and head of human resources.

In a recent town hall meeting of Eton, Karlu asked everyone to support the vision Bong had for Eton.

“As your new COO, I humbly ask for everyone’s full support to working effectively and as a team,” she said.

“It is my wish that all of us be open and willing to take on new challenges as we face the ever-changing expectations of our market. I believe that by working together, we can truly achieve success as envisioned by my brother Bong,” she said.

Karlu laid down three growth priorities that the company will take under her leadership which are to increase leasing revenue; increase the land values of Eton City in Sta. Rosa, Laguna and Eton Centris in Quezon City; and convert land bank assets into cash flow.

Bong’s disciple

In her eulogy for Bong who died last Nov. 11, days after collapsing in a basketball game, Karlu proudly shared she was Bong’s disciple.

“He taught me that there are three types of basketball shoes...there’s the low cut, the mid cut, and the high cut. He would drill it into my head and then he would test me in front of my other siblings whether I’d remember them all. When I got them correctly, they would all laugh at me and call me his disciple. Yes, I was truly his disciple and was so happy to be called one,” Karlu shared.


For Tanduay Distillers Inc., it’s now official. As I reported in an earlier column, the top position now goes to Bong’s son Lucio “Hun Hun” Tan III.

The taipan has named his grandson as president and COO of Tanduay, the company that Bong has grown significantly.

Hun Hun was also named president of Two Degrees Inc., the company behind Bong’s reforestation program, and director of Absolut Distillers.

Barring last minute changes, Hun Hun will also get Bong’s director positions in the board of Philippine Airlines and PAL Holdings, so says the buzz in the grapevine.

Another sister Sheila Tan-Pascual has taken Bong’s place as new board director in Tan’s banking giant Philippine National Bank (PNB).

Lucky in-laws

That Bong’s son and siblings will get his roles isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is the entry of Tan’s sons-in-law in some of the boards of the taipan’s companies, some in the business community have observed.

Tan is expected to officially name some of his sons-in-law as new directors.

“The big winners are Lucio Tan’s sons in law,” said an industry source in the Filipino-Chinese community.

Other Filipino-Chinese conglomerates such as the Gokongwei empire opt not to put in-laws in the family business.

The late John Gokongwei Jr. had a “no in-laws” rule.

Gokongwei  once said there were situations when loyalties change and sometimes relationships between the different in laws become strained and feelings get hurt. He also said it was tricky to decide which in law is more deserving. And then, of course there were times when the marriage did not work.

But Tan is unlike his other fellow taipans. He is known to break stereotypes and has long put in laws in his business.

Son-in-law Joseph Chua, for instance, has already been at the helm of listed aviation services provider MacroAsia and together with Bong, has steered MacroAsia to greater heights long before Bong died.

Tan empire in transition

It’s obvious that the Tan empire is in the midst of a major transition now and other conglomerates are quietly keeping a close watch.

Tan’s empire has always survived major challenges that came its way. Will it survive this transition as well? Will Bong’s successors deliver?

Time, as it always does, will decide.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales.

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