Succession minus the drama

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

It might have been a scene straight out of the gripping HBO series Succession because it was about the retirement of a media empire’s big boss and the announcement of his successor. But the comparison ended there; there was neither a cunning plot to steal the throne or a dark denouement as what happened to the Roy family in the television series.

Indeed, for this real life media empire GMA Network, it’s all’s well that ends well when its CEO Felipe L. Gozon or FLG announced his retirement on Saturday night.

“The GMA Board of Directors has approved my retirement as Chief Executive Officer effective Dec. 31, 2023. But I will continue as Chairman/Adviser and Chairman of the Programming Committee,” FLG said during the celebration of his 84th birthday at the glittering Isla Ballroom of Edsa Shangri-La.

Of course, the next big news was revealing his successor, GMA president and COO Gilberto “Jimmy” Duavit, Jr. who will be CEO effective Jan. 1, 2024.

No surprise there indeed as Duavit is the eldest son of Gilberto Duavit Sr., co-founder of GMA. The younger Duavit is also FLG’s second in command as president and COO of the Network since 2000. As I said, there was no drama, no violent reaction, no unexpected succession plot twist.

It was indeed a star-studded night filled with glitz and fun and lots of love.

There were celebrities from showbiz, business and politics with First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House Speaker Martin Romualdez and tycoon Tessie Sy-Coson among the esteemed guests.

Senators were present, too. I spotted Sen. Chiz Escudero with his celebrity wife, Heart Evanglista; and Senators Sonny Angara and Mark Villar. From the business chambers, there’s George Barcelon and Sergio Ortiz-Luis and Philippine Airlines president Capt. Stanley Ng.

It was also interesting to see top honchos from the rival network, ABS-CBN. I met president and CEO Carlo Katigbak that night for the first time but of course as a journalist, I follow the network’s travails closely. I was especially proud to stand together with my colleagues from ABS-CBN when the network was under attack by the Duterte administration.

That night, I told him that considering the challenges his network faced, he did not seem to age at all. That gave him a good laugh. It’s all good now, I told him. ABS-CBN, it seems, has successfully adapted to the changed environment.


Now what’s a media boss’s celebration without the celebrities? There’s Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera; Julie Anne San Jose and Rayver Cruz; Bea Alonzo, Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Dee and many other big stars.

I was especially happy to meet John Lloyd Cruz or JLC, thanks to Carlo Katigbak who made the introduction. I became a fan of JLC ever since I saw Honor Thy Father, which was about an issue close to my heart – Ponzi scams. He is admirable not just for his acting skills but for using his influence to raise awareness on society’s woes.

But the biggest star that night of course is the man of the hour, Gozon himself who was dapper and dashing in a Barong Tagalog and who was visibly happy to be surrounded by his family and friends from the entertainment industry and beyond.

In his speech, he said even President Marcos Jr. would have been there except he was not allowed by his doctor to go out after testing positive for COVID-19.

It was a fun-filled night nonetheless especially for FLG who celebrated not just another orbit around the sun but but his network’s huge accomplishment.

Not surprisingly, there were loads of entertainment including a short skit by Michael V. impersonating FLG with his trademark line to employees, “I may not always be right but I’m never wrong!” Michael V. capped this by banging his fist on the table, drawing laughter from the crowd.

GMA Network employees attest to FLG’s stern leadership. Meetings of the Program Committee, which FLG chairs, for instance, resemble a doctoral defense where employees “must give sharp, concise answers supported by hard data and analysis,” insiders say.

Guests were also treated with a short Family Feud episode hosted by Dingdong Dantes between the families of the Gozon daughters, Annette and Maritess which was all about bits of trivia about their father.

FLG has certainly come a long way. ln 1975, Gozon, along with Duavit Sr. and Menardo Jimenez, revived the struggling Republic Broadcasting System Inc. (RBS), the precursor of GMA. The triumvirate made various initiatives to make the company financially viable—restructured debt, upgraded equipment, and produced local shows.

But for many years, GMA was a very distant No. 2 TV station. This changed when FLG took the helm of the Network in 2000. GMA rose to become the top broadcast network in the Philippines.

With Duavit now in charge, GMA will strive to be an even better media giant. There would be challenges for sure including AI and fake news. Still, there’s nowhere to go but to greater heights.

Moving forward, I also hope that the broadcasting giant will do more to help educate generations and generations of viewers and help them sift through the dizzying avalanche of information that bombards us everyday.

But for now, I join the GMA team in popping the champagne. There’s more than enough reasons to celebrate – FLG’s success story, growth of the Network he helped build, his well-deserved retirement and his worthy successor.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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