Tycoons that 'Forbes' magazine missed on their list
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores () - July 26, 2010 - 12:00am

Death and life have their determined appointments; riches and honors depend upon heaven. — Confucius (551-479 BC)

 Thanks for the numerous e-mails, Facebook messages and texts (sorry, my mobile phone is not working well and I have not received many texts recently) suggesting we expound more on the Philippines’ richest list discussed last July 12.

We just want to add that excellence, passion, discipline, self-sacrifice and innovation are important factors in creating self-made wealth, and that the best way to really spread riches across this archipelago is for Philippine economic growth to be sustained and that a less corrupt government should be a decisive arbiter of rules safeguarding genuine free enterprise, a level playing field and true democracy.

As to the latest Forbes magazine list, among the Philippines’ 40 wealthiest tycoons, these individuals and families were undeservedly left off the magazine’s incomplete roster. The following names are based on this writer’s own research and surveys of various business people. The list is in no particular order.

• Araneta family of Cubao in Quezon City. This clan includes former Senator Mar Araneta Roxas’s mother Judy Araneta Roxas. Years ago at a dinner, Congresswoman Gina Vera-Perez de Venecia said that when Mrs. Roxas sought her advice on her son’s then senatorial plans, she half-jokingly advised: “Ibenta mo yung Araneta Coliseum to finance the senatorial campaign of Mar.” Nowadays, there’s no need for the family to sell the Coliseum or other assets, because their realty tie-up with Megaworld’s Andrew Tan to build many high-rise condos and their redevelopment of their Cubao landholdings into a nicer mall as well as call centers have brought new life to that once almost-dying area.

• Ortigas family of Greenhills, San Juan. One of the Philippines’ biggest landowners of Spanish descent, the Ortigas family owns the Greenhills commercial center which has been revived and modernized under the professional management team led by Rex Drilon. This family still has vast landholdings in Pasig, Quezon City and other areas.

• Manny Pacquiao. This world boxing champion is now a congressman. He is one of the most amazing “rags-to-riches” sagas in Philippine history, definitely a billionaire already.

• Carlos Chan of Oishi/Liwayway. One of the few truly world-class taipans from the Philippines, this low-key and very humble entrepreneur is very successful in Shanghai and other parts of booming China and Asia. His love of Chinese history and pop culture originally led him to frequent visits to the mega-city of Shanghai, where he set up the headquarters of his flourishing China enterprises. Carlos Chan is global in thinking as an entrepreneur.

• Alfonso Uy. This engineering board topnotcher and former acting Mayor of Iloilo City is the first provinciano president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII). Fluent in English, Ilonggo, Mandarin, Hokkien and Tagalog, Uy is a low-profile taipan in flour milling, sugar mills, feedmills, shipping and other diverse businesses. As leader of the FFCCCII, he has led the local Chinese community to continue the Philippines’ biggest private sector philanthropic project called “Operation Barrio Schools,” which has encouraged ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs to donate over 5,000 public school buildings to the poorest rural barrios nationwide. Alfonso Uy told me he was once a working student, so instead of finishing his engineering degree in five years, he had to add years to his education and was almost failed by his professors due to absences despite his highest academic grades.

• Fred Elizalde of Manila Broadcasting Corp. This “Radio King” is the boss of AM station DZRH and several FM stations like LoveRadio and 96.3. He is also boss of Star City and other enterprises. He is more known nowadays as the husband of the Philippines’ first prima ballerina Lisa Macuja Elizalde, who has a radio show (Art to Art) every Sunday, 3:30 p.m., on DZRH.

• Alfredo Yao. The “rags-to-riches” billionaire Fred Yao is the undisputed “Juice King” of the Philippines with his Zest-O brand, but he’s also challenging the multinationals Coke and Pepsi with his immensely popular RC Cola soft drinks. Not resting on his laurels as king of refreshing and affordable drinks, he’s venturing into airlines to compete with the legendary taipans John Gokongwei, Jr. of Cebu Pacific Air and Lucio Tan of Philippine Airlines. Fred Yao is boss of Zest Air. During our first term as chairman of the Anvil Business Club, I invited Fred Yao to a three-hour private dinner with our 185 officers and members to share his inspiring life story and he openly wept three times while recounting how he overcame childhood poverty to fight for his amazing success. 

• Atty. Mike Arroyo and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

• Imelda Romualdez Marcos

• Joseph Ejercito Estrada

• Senator Juan Ponce Enrile of Jaka Group

• Geronimo Velasco family. Formerly in the glass business, heirs of Marcos era Energy Minister.

• Jose “Pepito” Ch. Alvarez. Boss of BMW Philippines, Columbian Motors and a leader in buses. Pepito Alvarez is a talented self-made tycoon who originally made his fortune in logging.

• Reghis Romero. The self-made construction and port tycoon behind R-II Builders and the Harbor Center Port Terminal, Inc. told this writer recently at a dinner reception: “The net worth of Harbor Center is P3.5 billion and the net worth of R-II Builders is P2.5 billion.” His eldest son Dr. Mikee Romero is boss of Harbor Center and is also now the largest collector of Fernando Amorsolo paintings in the Philippines. When asked about critics’ charges of his alleged “midnight dealings” and other irregularities, the elder Romero denied any wrongdoing and decried another rival port operator’s “black propaganda.” He added: “Please write in your Philippine STAR columns that more port operators should be welcomed to the Philippines, because more competition will mean lower costs and better efficiency for a better Philippine economy.” The elder Romero said he loves BMW motorcycles and his new blue Maserati sports car.

• Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan. It is not true that only entrepreneurs can become super rich; professional managers of the caliber of the Wharton-educated MVP can become billionaires in their own right. In the 1990s when this writer was in Jakarta at a dinner with Indonesian taipans, they mentioned that their competitor Liem Sioe Liong of the Salim Group already paid MVP over US$1 million per month not yet counting bonuses and other perks just from one company alone. Like Ramon Ang of San Miguel, MVP is a corporate whiz who has himself become a billionaire.

• Ramon Ang of San Miguel. This self-made and dynamic corporate leader has the trust of his boss Danding Cojuangco and has become a legendary dealmaker of immense personal wealth. His numerous interests include Diamond Hotel on Roxas Boulevard, Manila. He is reportedly soon developing many condos in the former PEA-Amari reclamation site by the Manila Bay.  

• Tantoco family of Rustan’s chain, Store Specialists, Inc., Shopwise and other businesses built the clan fortune with founders Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco and his late wife Gliceria.

• Lucio Co of Puregold. This retail tycoon is aggressively expanding his Puregold supermarket chain — a possible challenger to SM, Save More, Ayala Malls and Robinsons chain?

• Wilson Lim of Abenson and Waltermart. This humble and soft-spoken “Appliance King” is boldly venturing into retail malls too via his Waltermart chain.

• Ben Chan. The genius behind the popular Bench brand, which is also now a fast-growing retail chain in China and other overseas markets.

• Dr. Vicki Belo. The “Doctor of the Stars” is no longer just content to earn her fortune via her successful beauty clinics and through her Flawless beauty chain in partnership with Ruby Sy-Coyiuto; she and her daughter Cristalle Belo Henares have gone into a consumer beauty products line under “Belo Essentials” and “Belo Nutraceuticals.”  

• Floirendo family of Davao. This family of banana exporters and realty tycoons is also big in politics.

• Ricardo Po of Century Tuna, 555 and Birch Tree Milk. The “King of Tuna” is an immigrant self-made taipan who started out as a journalist and advertising executive of a Chinese-language newspaper decades ago in downtown Manila. His success was built via his life of traditional Confucian values and bold vision.

• Angelo King. A self-made taipan who used to be in financing business and also formerly known as the “Motel King” because of Victoria Court and Anito, he has since become a generous philanthropist with donations to numerous Catholic charities, schools and even to Beijing University. His 56-year-old son Wyden King has become a born-again Christian and wants to change the family image, converting his former Anito motels into wholesome and successful Kabayan Hotels. Only brother Archie King remains in the motel business. Former Ambassador Bienvenido Tan told this writer: “Unknown to the public, Angelo King is perhaps the single largest donor to charities in the Philippines, he is a very generous philanthropist.”

• Lorenzo family of Lapanday. The most famous member of this banana-exporting clan is former Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo, who several years ago brought this writer via his Lear jet and then a smaller Cessna plane to their then huge Del Monte plantation in Mindanao, which had since been sold. The family also owns Dencio’s, Teriyaki Boy, Pancake House and others.

• Roxas family of Central Azucarera Don Pedro, Inc. This Hispanic family is the clan that unites the prominent Zobel-Ayala and Soriano cousins by lineage, and even the modern-day Ayala Corporation and Ayala Group started out originally as Casa Roxas, but later changed its business name after Margarita Roxas married Antonio de Ayala. The street Paseo de Roxas was named after this family, which today still controls the Philippines’ No. 1 sugar producer, Central Azucarera Don Pedro, and over 30,000 hectares of lands in Laguna, Batangas and Cavite.

• Michel J. Lhuillier. Part-French pawnshop tycoon from Cebu, now more popularly known as the father of international fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, based in the US. His family owns the M. Lhuillier chain which has over 1,200 branches nationwide with singer Ogie Alcasid as a celebrity endorser. 

• Phillippe Lhuillier. This brother of the M. Lhuillier boss is himself the boss of his own Cebuano Lhuillier pawnshop chain, which stakes the claim of being “the largest in the Philippines.” Its celebrity endorser is actress-singer Sarah Geronimo. Philippine Ambassador to Italy Phillippe Lhuillier recently received an honorary doctorate from St. Louis University.

• William Villarica. This pawnshop tycoon managed to escape the scrutiny of Forbes magazine’s wealthiest list, but not new President Noynoy Aquino’s Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares, and he became the first target of a tax evasion case under the new government’s anti-corruption drive. He allegedly declared zero taxes in 2007 but bought a Lamborghini sports car for P26 million in April of the same year. This writer’s research showed that there are now over 350 branches of Villarica pawnshops nationwide.

• Jacinto Ng of Rebisco. The self-made Jack Ng once recounted to me his “rags-to-riches” story. He is a leader in the biscuits industry and also successful in real estate. He is also the low-profile and humble taipan behind Asia United Bank and the Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center.

• Ben Tiu. Now more popularly known as the uncle of basketball and TV star Chris Tiu, his family is invested in steel manufacturing, the Discovery Suites luxury hotels, Sterling Bank of Asia and other ventures. He is the eldest son of the late self-made postwar taipan John Tiu Ka Cho, who started out with a hardware store on T. Alonzo Street in Manila and became a business leader in diverse industries.

• Henry Lim Bon Liong. Boss of Sterling Paper Group and pioneer in Philippine hybrid rice technology, UP engineering graduate and vice president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII).

• Eusebio “Yosi” Tanco of STI schools. He is scion of a self-made textile tycoon, an example of a rich kid who didn’t fritter away his inheritance but built up the family wealth with hard work and innovations.

• Johnny Hernandez of Victory Liner. A leader in Philippine bus lines.

• Antonio Cabangon Chua. A self-made tycoon in insurance, real estate, finance and other businesses.

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Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at willsoonflourish@gmail.com or at Facebook, or you can follow WilsonLeeFlores at Twitter.

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