This group comes from dynastic families, many tracing their roots to the Basque region of Spain. The most famous are the Zobels, the closest thing we have to royalty, tracing their roots to Germany and Spain (they are direct descendants of the Duchess of Alba in Madrid). Jaime Zobel de Ayala, 73, (rank 1, $2 billion net worth) already passed on the torch to his sons Jaime Augusto and Fernando, the seventh generation in the family.
Jaime took over the flagship Ayala Corp. after his cousin Enrique sold the family’s shares in San Miguel Corporation without their knowledge (earning the ire of their aunt, Mercedes McMicking). Nevertheless, Enrique’s side of the family, who already passed away, remains wealthy. His heir Iñigo Zobel is worth $660 million (rank 12).
The Roxases are sugar barons from Batangas and have a long history in the country. Their patriarch, Don Pedro Roxas, was considered one of the richest men in the Philippines in the 19th century. In fact, the Roxas, Zobel, and Soriano families are all related, as Don Pedro bore the mother of Andres Soriano and the first wife of the first Enrique Zobel de Ayala. Antonio Roxas, 65 (rank 37, $36 million), who chairs Roxas Holdings (formerly, Central Azucarera Don Pedro), recently reorganized to move towards new investments.
The Aboitiz clan of Cebu is another storied family, starting in the late 1800s trading hemp and later shipping. Enrique Aboitiz, 85 (rank 16, $375 million net worth), holds forth at Aboitiz Equity Ventures.
Enrique Razon Jr., 47 (rank 8, $820 million net worth), doesn’t have the same centuries of family history in the Philippines but inherited International Container Terminal Services (formerly Risco) from his father, Enrique “Pocholo” Razon, who started the business in 1987. But it was he who turned ICTSI into a global operation, providing container port terminal services in the Philippines, Poland, and Brazil.
Perhaps the most inspiring among these billionaires are these rags-to-riches stories – first-generation poor immigrants from the Fujian province in China. Henry Sy, 83 (rank 2, $1.7 billion net worth), built three of the world’s largest shopping malls, and is expected to hand over the reins to his daughter, Teresita Sy-Coson. His SM Investments also owns two of the largest banks in the country – BDO and Chinabank.
Lucio Tan, 73 (rank 3, $1.6 billion), built his wealth on Fortune Tobacco, Asia Brewery, and Tanduay Distillers. He also owns two banks (Allied Bank and PNB), two airlines (PAL and Air Philippines), among other companies.
The youngest – and newest – billion dollar tycoon in the Philippines, Andrew Tan, 55 (rank 4, $1.1 billion), started as a trader and later became one of the most successful property developers by focusing his Megaworld into building condominiums. His holding company Alliance Global sells the most number of brandy bottles in the world (Emperador) and now holds the master franchise of McDonald’s (Golden Arches).
Another real estate mogul is Andrew Gotianun, 79 (rank 7, $860 million), got started with second-hand car financing before he built Filinvest into a powerhouse. He also owns East West Bank.
THE CHINESE CLANS
As opposed to the first-generation Chinese immigrants, these Chinese taipans were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, although their family fortunes took different turns. George Ty, 74 (rank 6, $870 million), came from a wealthy family (his father owned Wellington Flour Mills). But they ran into financial difficulties in the 1950s, and that’s when he realized the power banks hold. This led him to start his own bank, and now Metrobank is one of biggest in the Philippines. He also owns Federal Land and Toyota Motors Philippines.
A somehow similar fate happened to John Gokongwei Jr., 81 (rank 15, $430 million), whose family lost everything when his affluent father died. He recovered when he started a corn milling plant. That became Universal Robina Corporation, manufacturer of such popular brands like Chippy, Blend 45, and C2. His son Lance is heir to the empire, which includes Cebu Pacific, Sun Cellular, and Robinsons Land.
Alfonso Yuchengco, 84 (rank 17, $365 million), inherited China Insurance (now Malayan Insurance) from his wealthy father, Don Enrique. The Japanese closed the business during the war, and like Gokongwei, was forced to buy and sell commodities to make ends meet. After liberation, he built the business into a financial powerhouse (Malayan, RCBC, House of Investments, and Great Pacific Life Insurance). His daughter, Helen Dee, is now in charge of the Yuchengco Group of Companies.
David Consunji, 86 (rank 19, $210 million), traces his roots to Pampanga, although he’s not pure Chinese (mixed with Spanish and Filipino blood; his mother is a Mendoza). A graduate of civil engineering from the University of the Philippines, he started D.M. Consunji, Incorporated (DMCI) in 1954 and in the succeeding decades built some of the country’s most famous landmarks, including Mactan Shangri-la Hotel, Manila Hotel, The Westin Philippine Plaza, The Asian Hospital, etc. He was also a former secretary of Public Works. Today, he and his family have interests in construction, real estate, energy, water, mining, and road infrastructure.
Before Alaska Milk Corporation, the Uytengsus already made it big with Uy Matiao and Co, built by the patriarch, Don Tirso of Dumaguete. But Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Sr., 80 (rank 31, $60 million), founded General Milling Corporation and Holland Milk Products, now Alaska. Now, his heir Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr., is taking the company into the next level, with 85% market share.
The Tambuntings are known for their chain of pawnshops across the country. They trace their roots to Don Ildefonso Tan Bunting, a son of a Chinese immigrant who started the pawnshop business. But his grandson Jesus Tambunting, 70 (rank 36, $47 million), has always been a banker. After resigning from a senior executive job at a large commercial bank, he bought a small bank in Bulacan and grew it into the largest development bank in the country, Plantersbank.
Some wealthy Filipino families are intertwined with the political landscape for decades, as kingmakers, politicians, or both. The Lopezes of Iloilo have long been part of the history of Philippine politics. They trace their origins to Basilio Lopez, a gobernadorcillo of Jaro, Iloilo City in 1849. Great grandson Fernando was a mayor, senator, and vice president of the Philippines. Geny was incarcerated during martial law for five years and pulled off a spectacular escape with Serge Osmeña. But it was Fernando’s brother Eugenio (Geny’s dad) who built the Lopez empire, with a string of companies, including an airline (FEATI), newspaper (Manila Chronicle), electric utility (Meralco), and television network (ABS-CBN). Today, his brother Oscar Lopez, 77 (rank 10, $775 million net worth) is patriarch of holding company Benpres but is set to retire, with youngest brother Manuel taking over.
One of the most powerful Filipino political families are the Cojuangcos, part of the old Spanish-Chinese mestizo landed class from Tarlac, starting with Melecio Cojuangco who served the 1st Philippine legislature in 1907. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., 72 (rank 13, $540 million), is chairman of San Miguel Corporation. Known better as Danding, he remains active in politics as chairman emeritus of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the party he formed for his failed 1992 presidential campaign. Nevertheless, he continues to be an influential political figure. His cousin Corazon Aquino became president of the republic in 1986. Other family members held or are holding office as mayor, governor, or congressman.
The Zamora brothers are also influential in Philippine politics. The most prominent is Ronaldo, who was a congressman and executive secretary. It is his brothers Manuel Zamora, 68 (rank 27, $105 million net worth) and Salvador Zamora, 61 (rank 32, $55 million) that are active in business. They make their money from mining, particularly through Nickel Asia, in partnership with Philip Ang, 66 (rank 34, $50 million), who was also chairman of Solid Mills.
There is definitely a changing of the guards among the billionaires, with the next generation taking over the chairmanship of flagship companies. There are those, on the other hand, who, still in their 40s or 50s, have made their billions by starting their own company, such as Andrew Tan and Luis Virata. And then there’s Manuel Villar, 57 (rank 5, $940 million), a shrimp vendor’s son who made his riches in real estate (his family runs Vista Land). He also married into a wealthy political family, and is now the Senate President, with plans to run for the presidency.
Tony Tan Caktiong, 57 (rank 9, $790 million), is founder of Jollibee Foods Corporation, which dominates the quick service restaurant industry. He started working in their family restaurant where his father was also the chef. He and his brothers opened an ice cream parlor (a Magnolia Ice Cream House franchise) in 1975 and gradually added burgers and other items, which grew into Jollibee. He now owns Red Ribbon, Chowking, Greenwich, and Delifrance, among others.
Coming also from a middle-class family (his parents started the Hortaleza stores that sold cosmetics), Rolando Hortaleza, 48 (rank 26, $110 million), while studying to be an ophthalmologist, quit during his third year of residency to start a business with his wife, which grew to become Splash Corporation.
Not much is known of Security Bank chairman Frederick Dy, 53 (rank 30, $70 million), but he has been the bank’s majority shareholder since 1989.
Owning a newspaper or television network often meant power and influence. No wonder Iñigo Zobel owns Business World. The Manila Times went through various owners throughout its long history, including Manuel Quezon, Alejandro Roces, John Gokongwei Jr., Mark Jimenez, and Dante Ang. The Manila Standard (now Manila Standard Today) was founded by Manuel Elizalde, purchased by Andres Soriano, bought into by Alfonso Yuchengco, and taken over by Enrique Razon Jr. The Philippine Star, the second most widely read newspaper, is owned partly by the Belmontes. The number one in terms of circulation is the Philippine Daily Inquirer, chaired by Marixi Prieto, 67 (rank 39, $33 million net worth), who is related by affinity to the Roces family.
However, the richest among the top three remains Emilio Yap, 81 (rank 14, $445 million) of the Manila Bulletin, who also owns Manila Hotel, Liwayway Publishing, and Philtrust.
In television, of course the Lopez family’s ABS-CBN has always been the 800-pound gorilla. But GMA Network has been giving its rival a run for its money. With soaring ratings, increasing revenues, and its recent public listing, it has made the fortunes of the three controlling families even bigger. Gilberto Duavit Jr., 43 (rank 21, $191 million), Menardo Jimenez (rank 22, $190 million), and Felipe Gozon, 67 (rank 23, $165 million) acquired the network in 1974. Gozon, currently chairman and chief executive, was the corporate lawyer of the original owner, Bob Stewart. Menardo, who was president since 1976 until his retirement, is his brother-in-law while Gilberto Duavit Sr. was a congressman (his son is now COO).
The school dropout-turned-billionaire story is always an awe-inspiring tale. But sometimes, higher education pays off. Sure, some of our billionaires didn’t finish college, a few not even high school. But most are college graduates from good schools. A good number started out as licensed professionals like lawyers, engineers, and accountants. And then there are those who went to Ivy League schools and whose academic credentials are most impressive. And it shows in their management style and areas of expertise. Luis J.L. Virata, 53 (rank 20, $200 million), is first and foremost an investment banker, who chairs CLSA Exchange Capital Corporation (he helped Lucio Tan acquire PAL and ran it as president). He is also a majority owner of Nickel Asia. He has an MBA from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Economics from Trinity College, Cambridge.
Ramon del Rosario Jr., 63 (rank 25, $137 million), is a graduate of Harvard Business School. In 1978, he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardees in the field of investment banking and finance. He served as chief financial officer of San Miguel Corporation. Later he started investment house AB Capital and Investment Corp. and runs as president the Philippine Investment Management Inc. (Phinma), an industrial powerhouse co-founded by his father.
Two other billionaires are part of Phinma: chairman Oscar Hilado, 69 (rank 33, $51 million), a Smith Mundt/Fullbright scholar at the Harvard Graduate School, and vice-chairman Magdaleno Albarracin Jr., 71 (rank 35, $49 million), former dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of the Philippines and doctoral degree holder in Business Administration from Harvard University.
The Alcantara family from Davao built their wealth in logging and manufacturing wood products. Today, the Alcantara Group, founded by Conrado Alcantara, has diversified into energy and power, property development, and agri-based businesses. Son Tomas Alcantara, 61 (rank 29, $90 million), who has an MBA from New York City’s Columbia University and is a former trade secretary, heads the group.
There’s of course Manuel Pangilinan, 61 (rank 38, $35 million), chairman of PLDT. He has an MBA from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. But he started as an employee for Phinma, Bancom, and American Express Bank before he struck on his own, partnering with Indonesian Anthoni Salim to set up Hong Kong-based First Pacific Corp., which now controls PLDT (which also owns Smart, ePLDT, etc.), Indofoods, and Metro Pacific Investments (with majority stakes in Landco Pacific and Maynilad Water Services).
THE POWERFUL WOMEN
The Forbes 40 includes four women billionaires (six if we include heirs Teresita Sy-Coson and Helen Dee). There’s Vivian Que Azcona (rank 11, $670 million), daughter of Mariano Que, founder of the dominant drugstore chain in the Philippines, Mercury Drug.
Beatrice Campos (rank 18, $220 million) is the widow of Jose Yao Campos, who co-founded United Laboratories (Unilab) along with Mariano Tan (rank 24, $140 million) to be the leading pharmaceutical company, beating some of the world’s biggest multinationals. She is also heir to Greenfield Development, the family’s real estate arm.
There is Betty Ang (rank 28, $100 million), who runs Monde Nissin, which manufactures instant noodles, biscuits, and snack foods with popular brands such as Lucky Me! and Monde.
Another heir is Lourdes Reyes-Montinola, 79 (rank 40, $30 million), grand-daughter of Dr. Nicanor Reyes Sr., founder of The Far Eastern University.