Why did Ramon Ang make it to Bloomberg’s 50?
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - December 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Tycoon Ramon “RSA” Ang left Manila quietly two Sundays ago and exactly 15 hours and three minutes later, his sleek private jet, a Gulfstream G650 landed on US soil.

He arrived at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey just as quietly as he left Manila. No big entourage, no fanfare, no paparazzi, sources said.

But RSA’s trip to the US is actually one that makes headlines.

He flew to the US to attend Bloomberg’s Dec. 9 dinner in New York for the 50 most influential and important people around the globe in 2019.

It’s quite a recognition because RSA, president and COO of conglomerate San Miguel, is the only Filipino to land on the annual list compiled by the media business giant.

In including RSA in this year’s The Bloomberg 50: The People Who Defined Global Business in 2019, Bloomberg cited him as the tycoon who is remaking the Philippines.

“Ten years ago, San Miguel was primarily a food and beer conglomerate. (It’s named after its original 1890 brewery, opened when the Philippines was still a Spanish colony). Ramon Ang, who’s run the company since 2002, has expanded into the electricity, oil and construction industries. San Miguel still makes plenty of beer but the $2.15 billion purchase for 86 percent of Holcim likely allows it to capitalize on President Duterte’s pledge to spend $170 billion on infrastructure. San Miguel is building a light rail system and will soon break ground on the airport in Bulacan province, not far from the capital. It will have three times the capacity of Manila’s current one, which is 71 years old and regularly ranks among the world’s worst,” Bloomberg said.

RSA, joined the roster of other influential and important people such as Lil Nas X, the American, rapper, singer and songwriter; Stephanie Kelton, the economist; Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand; David Marcus of Facebook; Rihanna the pop star actress and climate activist Gretha Thunberg.

I’m not surprised that RSA landed on the list. He is one of the boldest tycoons I know, one who is not afraid to make big bets on new businesses.

“Kelangan matapang ang pera mo!” he once said.

Many in the stock market have recognized his business acumen and the big business bets he’s made through the years such as the diversification of San Miguel.

He is leading the conglomerate’s next bold move which is to build a sprawling airport in Bulacan.

He will be borrowing funds for this ambitious project, touted as a game changer. Aside from this, San Miguel also just recently acquired cement giant Holcim Philippines.

Whether or not RSA would succeed in his ambitious plans remains to be seen.

The mechanic

What is certain is that RSA has come a long way from the man who was engaged in a modest car imports business sometime in the late 70s.

A Mechanical Engineering graduate from the Far Eastern University, RSA is a known car enthusiast. I myself saw his collection of prized vintage cars in his garage in Tarlac.

He told me he started tinkering with cars during his teen age years.

It was this passion for cars that brought RSA and tycoon and politician Eduardo “ECJ” Cojuangco Jr. together.

The RSA-ECJ friendship

RSA became ECJ’s trusted man. Stories about the friendship of the two abound.

Both car enthusiasts, RSA tinkered with ECJ’s collection of prized road queens. Now, RSA himself also has a mammoth collection of cars, both vintage and modern.

In no time, ECJ trusted RSA not just with his cars but with his businesses, paving the way for RSA’s rise as a businessman.

ECJ first appointed RSA as manager of Northern Cement Corp. When ECJ went into exile in the US in 1986, he trusted RSA to watch over his businesses in the country. RSA remained loyal to him even if others distanced themselves from ECJ.

When ECJ returned in 1989, he recruited RSA to join him in San Miguel, first as vice chairman then president and chief operating officer.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A Tarlac-based journalist Ver Buan remembers covering the two businessmen and calls ECJ and RSA a duo of dreamers.

Ver wrote a book, “The Tarlac Book” which is about many aspects of life in the province.

In the book, Ver also wrote about how the ECJ and RSA duo changed the province in many ways. He also published photos of the two tycoons from their younger days. ECJ served as governor of Tarlac from 1967 to 1969 and also represented Tarlac’s first district from 1969 to 1972.

Indeed, ECJ and RSA’s friendship changed not only Tarlac but also the country in many different ways.

Ver calls it “samahang walang katulad,” as the tagline of San Miguel goes.

Today, the friendship remains and it has opened many doors for both tycoons.

For RSA, he started as a businessman and mechanic remaking cars. Today, as Bloomberg said, he is the magnate remaking the country.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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