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Business

Fernando Zobel takes medical leave; Consing takes over

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star
Fernando Zobel takes medical leave; Consing takes over
Fernando Zobel de Ayala.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Ayala Corp. president and CEO Fernando Zobel de Ayala, 62, has taken a temporary medical leave, just a little over a year since assuming the leadership of the country’s oldest conglomerate in April 2021.

The company’s board of directors convened in a special meeting on Sunday to approve Zobel’s leave of absence as vice chairman and president and CEO.

The board elected veteran banker Cezar Consing as acting president and CEO and member of Ayala’s executive committee.

Consing is a director at Ayala and other Ayala-led businesses, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom Inc. and ACEN Corp. He served as senior managing director of Ayala and was president and CEO of BPI from 2013 to 2021.

Ayala’s board also elected Delfin Lazaro as vice chairman of the executive committee.

“I want to assure everyone that Fernando is in high spirits, but he has asked for some time to focus on his health and recovery. We all have so many responsibilities and commitments in all aspects of our lives, but first and foremost, we should all prioritize our health and well-being,” Zobel’s brother Jaime Augusto said.

“As a family, we’re fully supportive of Fernando’s decision to take a leave so he can do whatever is necessary to rebuild his strength,” he said.

The announcement came as a surprise to many in the business community as well as some Ayala insiders. But some Ayala old guards said medical leaves are not uncommon and that it would still be business as usual in the conglomerate.

No other details were disclosed.

It is not clear yet how long the medical leave will last or if Zobel will be traveling abroad for medical reasons.

Known as FZA in the business community, Fernando took over the helm of Ayala as CEO in April 2021, succeeding his brother, Ayala chairman Jaime Augusto.

Fernando has successfully steered the conglomerate through the challenging COVID-19 pandemic and has likewise led Ayala’s move to sell some of its non-core assets to focus on its core strengths.

The sale of these non-core assets could reach $1 billion by 2023 from $420 million as of early this year.

This year, Ayala earmarked P285 billion for its capital expenditures and investments to “execute on the growth initiatives across our businesses.” This was higher than the P228 billion spent in 2021.

It’s not clear yet if Fernando will also take a leave from his directorships in other Ayala companies and non-Ayala firms and organizations.

Among his directorships outside Ayala are Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. (independent director), Hero foundation (chairman of the board of trustees), Bonifacio Art Foundation (vice chairman of the board of trustees) and Berkshires Holdings Inc. (director, vice chairman of the board of directors).

FERNANDO ZOBEL DE AYALA

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