By Tyrone Jasper C Piad/Manila Times
The Philippines’ third-richest tycoon, John Gokongwei Jr, died yesterday at the age of 93.
The founder of JG Summit Holdings Inc, one of the country’s top conglomerates, he was the third richest Filipino according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $5.3bn.
The Gokongwei Group is one of the country’s biggest and most diversified conglomerates, with interests in air transportation, telecommunications, banking, food, power, property and petrochemicals.
Thousands of employees of JG Summit and Robinson Retail Holdings mourned Gokongwei’s passing.
“Mr John, as we fondly called him, was a visionary. He was an inspiration to entrepreneurs and businessmen, with his pioneering ideas, his strong work ethic, his passions and perseverance,” they said in a statement.
JG Summit ranked ninth in the 2019 issue of Manila Times 500, a roster of the country’s top conglomerates and corporations, raking in P291.9bn revenues last year. Gokongwei transformed a cornstarch manufacturing plant in Pasig, Universal Robina Corp (URC), into one of the Philippines’ leading food and beverage businesses.
URC produces a slew of products loved by generations like Chippy, Tortillos, Nova and C2. It also produces animal feeds and veterinary products.
Days before Gokongwei’s death, JG Summit Holdings’ subsidiary Cebu Pacific, which made air travel affordable to the masses, finalised its order for 16 brand-new Airbus A330neo jets.
Malacanang and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo yesterday expressed their sympathies to the family of Gokongwei Jr.
“The Palace expresses its deep condolences to the family, the surviving wife Elizabeth, children Lance, Robina, Lisa, Faith, Hope and Marcia, friends and colleagues of John Gokongwei, Jr,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Malacanang described Gokongwei as a “visionary” and “pillar of the Philippine economy.”
“Our people recognise Gokongwei’s amazing journey as a self-made industrialist, respected business leader, and generous philanthropist. A grateful nation respects the man for the indelible legacy he made in the fields of business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy,” it said.
Panelo noted that Filipinos should emulate certain values exhibited by the late business tycoon.
“Gokongwei was an exceptional and ideal Filipino. He exemplifies the traits that should endow us: industrious, disciplined, indefatigable, creative, generous, always hungry for knowledge, grateful and never forgetting his origins, and most of all, a loving person to his family and his country,” he said. Meanwhile, Robredo sent her condolences in a tweet: “Our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of John Gokongwei Jr. We will remember his many contributions not only to the business community, but to helping our fellow Filipinos in need.”
Senators also extended their condolences to the Gokongwei family.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson narrated on Twitter his interaction with the late billionaire when he helped solve the kidnapping of Gokongwei’s daughter, Robina, when the lawmaker was with the Philippine Constabulary (PC).
“In 1981, I instructed him not to sound intimidated while negotiating for Robina’s ransom. He snapped at her kidnappers, ‘10M (P10mn)? Do you know how long it will take me to count that much money? You can have my daughter!’ I said, ‘Not too bold either, John.’ Rest in peace, John Gokongwei Jr,” Lacson tweeted.
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