Coming of age party

BUSINESS SNIPPETS - Marianne Go - The Philippine Star
Coming of age party
Jaime Urquijo, Alfonso and Mariana Zobel
STAR / File

It was sort of a coming of age party for the next generation of stewards of the Ayala Group with the master of ceremonies, Rene Almendras, deftly weaving in the 190th anniversary theme of the historic conglomerate into the Ayala Group’s media night games held Friday, Feb. 16, at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati.

For the first time ever, siblings Mariana and Jaime Alfonso Zobel, together with cousin Jaime Zobel Urquijo, met with members of the media to socialize, dine, drink, play games, party and even dance to a live band.

The triumvirate, groomed and poised to take over the country’s biggest and oldest conglomerate, had increasingly stepped up their visibility last year, taking on more of the operational duties that Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel had started easing back on as early as 2022.

Mariana, Jaime Alfonso, and Jaime Urquijo, quietly went about with their duties without much fanfare, learning on the job and guided by the senior professional managers of the Ayala Group, honing their managerial skills to takeover the operations of the sprawling conglomerate which has key interest in banking, real estate, health care, communications, motoring, renewable energy and industrial technologies, even as it prepares to divest from its water and light rail investments.

Mariana, at 36, has had a head start as she early on, worked with Ayala Corp., handling corporate strategy, and taking on managerial duties at the Ayala Malls The 30th in Pasig in 2016-2017, and has recently been promoted to senior vice president at Ayala Land.

Unlike their father Jaime Augusto Zobel, Mariana and Jaime Augusto appear to be more “shy” at this stage. JAZA, their father, during his time had that remarkable air of assurance and confidence right off the bat, what with his tall and good looks, along with his brother, Fernando, exuding a dignified but aloof vibe.

Mariana and Jaime Alfonso, who belong to the Millennials or Gen Y, are also known as echo boomers, being offspring of Baby Boomers and thus generally reflect their parents, but with less of the concerns of the previous generations.

Thus, it wasn’t difficult for Rene Almendras to convince Mariana, Jaime Alfonso and Jaime Urquijo to sit down and party with the media, with each of the three assigned to different tables to mingle and get to know the different media personalities covering the Ayala Group.

A revelation that night was Jaime Alfonso who exuded a shy boyish charm but turned out to actually be “killer” as he teased Malaya’s business editor Irma Isip about “capturing” his heart as they had shared a table and engaged in light banter.

According to Isip, unlike his father JAZA, Jaime Alfonso was easy to talk to even though he did not really “talk shop” about the Ayala conglomerate’s business plans.

Jaime Alfonso was so relaxed that even after Irma had won an iPad Air, Jaime Alfonso shared a high five with her.

Swoon-worthy also was the fact that Jaime Alfonso, who currently holds the AC Motor portfolio, drives a brand-new sleek black Kia K5 GT.

Mall facelifts

I was lucky enough to sit with Mariana and immediately took the opportunity to grill her about the Ayala Group’s P13-billion renovation plans for four of the malls, specifically their Trinoma Mall in North EDSA, Quezon City, Glorietta and Greenbelt 1 at the Ayala Center in Makati and Ayala Center in Cebu.

Likewise, I also asked her about the continuing slump being experienced by almost all big retail malls, almost two years after the pandemic closure of 2020-2021, specifically their spacious Ayala Malls Manila Bay which I love going to because of their expansive mall space, cool airconditioning, ample parking space, clean and plentiful comfort rooms.

Unfortunately, however, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, which is located along Macapagal Avenue was among those badly hit by the pandemic in 2020 just as it was opening, nipping in the bud what should have been a trendsetter in mall design with equal parts of air conditioned and open air space.

Mariana acknowledged that the malls in that area are quite big, which include the Sy family’s Mall of Asia, DoubleDragon Plaza, and various strip malls, and were all adversely affected by the pandemic and are taking longer to recover. Fortunately, according to Mariana, they are beginning to see foot traffic and sales pick up, with interest by retailers also picking up.

Ayala Land, however, is embarking on a P13-billion renovation program to give a facelift to four of its prime shopping malls. Trinoma, Glorietta and Ayala Center Cebu would all be getting a facelift and a reconfiguration, while the Greenbelt 1 would be torn down and rebuilt.

“We are so excited as it is a change in the look and feel. All the architecture will be uplifted, but also the programming in the store and the mix,” Mariana elaborated. For Glorietta, she went on, “we will enhance the interiors and facade...evaluating open spaces, making them more comfortable and covered, and then adjusting the merchandise...making them very curated.”

Plans for Trinoma, she added, include optimizing the existing mall even as it is connected to the nearby Vertis North Mall and for which plans and talks are already being done to increase parking in the area.

As for Ayala Center Cebu, Mariana pointed out that “the structure is still sound, but we are actually refreshing the interiors...our proposition is it should be more intimate.”

Overall, Mariana is “very optimistic” about Ayala’s mall developments.

Mariana the dancer

While Jaime Augusto proved to be the charmer, Mariana showed off her graceful dancing skills, gamely taking to the dance floor for a couple of twirls along with some members of media, including Joanne Rae Ramirez of People Asia and Rene Almendras. It was also surprising to observe that Mariana prefers beer over wine and sushi from the buffet that included Japanese and Thai dishes.

Jaime Urquijo was at another table with Tina Dumlao and Doris Abadilla of Philippine Daily Inquirer. In a brief speech he gave, Jaime Urquijo, son of Bea Zobel Jr., had a slight and charming British school accent, although according to his bio he graduated from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

The future is indeed bright, beautiful and handsome for the Ayala Group.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with