Felipe Gozon’s family celebrates his ‘greatest legacy’ on 84th birthday

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Felipe Gozon�s family celebrates his �greatest legacy� on 84th birthday
Lawyer Felipe L. Gozon celebrates his 84th birthday at EDSA Shangri-La with the announcement that he’s retiring as chief executive officer (CEO) of GMA Network.
Photos from Sparkle GMA Artist Center and Nice Print Photography’s official Facebook pages

MANILA, Philippines — Lawyer Felipe L. Gozon chose his 84th birthday celebration to announce his decision to step down as chief executive officer (CEO) of GMA Network, a position he held for over two decades.

On Dec. 9 at EDSA Shangri-La, in a gathering attended by VIPs like First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, Kapuso stars and news personalities, law school classmates, industry colleagues, friends and his beloved family, Gozon (whose actual birth date is Dec. 8) said, “The GMA Board of Directors has approved my retirement as chief executive officer effective Dec. 31, 2023. But I will still continue as chairman/adviser and chairman of the programming committee.”

He also announced that replacing him is Gilberto Duavit Jr., the son of Gilberto Duavit Sr., one of the founders of GMA. His new title will be president/CEO, and he will continue to serve as vice-chair of the Program Committee, added Gozon.

FLG, as he’s fondly called at the network, is surrounded by his family, including wife Tessie, children Annette Gozon-Valdez, Philip Gozon and Maritess Gozon-Viterbo, and his eight grandchildren.

Duavit Jr. became part of GMA’s Board of Directors in 1999 and chairman of the network’s executive committee in 2000. He was named executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2000 and elected president in 2010. He also holds other key positions in the company’s subsidiaries and affiliates.

Gozon further said that Joel Marcelo Jimenez — son of Menardo Jimenez, one of GMA’s founders — had been elected as the chairman of the Executive Committee. Jimenez is the president and CEO of Menarco Holdings, and CEO of Alta Productions Group, Inc. He is also a director at RGMA Network, Inc., execom chair and director of GMA New Media, Inc., Scenarios, Inc., GMA Worldwide, Inc., and a trustee of GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.

It was in 1975 when the triumvirate of Gozon, Gilberto Duavit Sr. and Menardo Jimenez revived the struggling Republic Broadcasting System, Inc. (RBS), laying the foundation for what would later become GMA. According to GMA, they implemented various initiatives to improve the company’s financial viability, such as debt restructuring, equipment upgrades, and the production of local shows.

In 2004 or three years after Gozon assumed the position of chairman, president and CEO of GMA in 2000, GMA rose to become No. 1 in Mega Manila ratings of Nielsen, the only area rated by Nielsen then. “Since then, GMA was not No. 1 in Mega Manila ratings for only one year, in 2010,” Gozon recalled.

“Three years and six months after Nielsen started to report the National Urban TV Audience Measurement (NUTAM) in July 2007, or in January 2011 GMA became no. 1 in NUTAM ratings.  Since then, GMA was not No. 1 in NUTAM ratings for only three years — 2013, 2014 and 2019.”

“With the Lord’s help and the changes we are implementing, we are confident that GMA Network and GTV will not only continue to maintain their top rankings in ratings and superiority in gross revenues and net income in the coming years but improve on them,” he said.

VIP guests include First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos (second from left), who is pictured with (from left) Sanya Lopez, lawyer and GMA senior vice president Annette Gozon-Valdes, and Sparkle GMA Artist Center VP Joy Marcelo.

Prior to his announcement, a grateful FLG, as he is fondly called at GMA, took the opportunity to recount “God’s hand at work” in his life, leading to being at the helm of the Kapuso network.

He recalled how he was saved from four near-death experiences when he was a young boy. “When I was about 3 to 4 years old, I fell into the Malabon Sugar Factory and into a small well in my maternal grandfather’s residence in Malabon,” he shared.

“When I was a little older, about 6 to 7 years old, I was run over by a passenger jeepney in Arellano St. Malabon, and hit my head in the barnacles on the underside of the wide and long Salambao (a bamboo raft used in fishing in the Malabon river). If I was not able to swim to the light, I would have drowned. My mother, who was a very religious and spiritual person, told me that God must have a plan for me.

“Indeed, when I look back at my life, I could see God’s hand in the choices I made (or made for me by my parents when I was too young to make my own decision),” he further noted, including the time he assumed the position of chairman, president and CEO of GMA Network, Inc. and later as chairman/CEO.

FLG with Marian Rivera-Dantes and Dingdong Dantes.

“This reminds me of my favorite quote which is: ‘Those who see God’s hand in everything can leave everything in God’s hand.’ And if I may add, after doing everything that you can. I continue to ask our Lord to let me know what it is He wants me to specifically do.”

‘Greatest Legacy’

For his family, this faith is their father’s “greatest legacy.”

According to lawyer Philip Gozon, the second of FLG’s three children with wife Tessie (the others being GMA senior vice president and lawyer Annette Gozon-Valdes and Dr. Maritess Viterbo), his father may be “well-known for being a strict chairman and chief executive, who demands perfection,” but he also has “a compassionate side which we are privileged to be able to see as his family.”

Atty. Philip particularly cited that the time his mom got sick early this year, “I got to see the human side of my dad.”

“Now, here is someone who has accomplished more than two lifetimes worth of achievements and yet at the hospital bed beside my mom, he appears so vulnerable and unsure of what to do,” he further recalled.

“I will never forget his words to me at that moment: ‘Philip, akalain mo naman mangyari kay Mommy ito,’ and thereafter shaking his head as though defeated.

“And so he turned to prayer. You would see him daily by my mom’s side, asking our Lord for guidance and that come what may His will be done.

“Thankfully, my mom was able to get through her ailment and to this day, led by FLG, we continue as a family to do Bible study every Sunday because he wants to instill in us a genuine fear of the Lord. I think that may be FLG’s greatest legacy.”

Other highlights from the celebration offered guests a more intimate look at Gozon, from his favorite songs to a favorite line/joke at the workplace: “I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong.”

A favorite show of his now is the Dingdong Dantes-hosted Family Feud, and his children and other Kapuso stars did a Family Feud version based on employees’ survey results about Gozon.

One top answer was if his life were turned into a movie, the No. 1 choice to play him would be comic genius and parody king Michael V.

GMA Network’s Gilberto Duavit Jr. (left), who is replacing FLG as CEO, with Sen. Bong Revilla.
Photo from Revilla’s official Facebook page

One of the most cheered, if not the most poignant moments of his 84th birthday, was probably when he proudly introduced, one by one, his children — Annette, Philip and Maritess, plus, the source of “joy in our old age,” his eight grandchildren — and expressed gratefulness for his wife.

“I particularly thank the Lord for Tessie, a good wife given to me by God, who, after going steady with me for 11 years and being married to me for 54 years and six months, I can truly say is the love of my life.”

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