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Tycoon and diplomat Alfonso Yuchengco dies

Rappler.com
Yuchengco, who also served as Philippine ambassador, took the family insurance business and turned it into a financial powerhouse

MANILA, Philippines – Yuchengco family patriarch Alfonso Yuchengco has passed away. He was 94.

The tycoon and distinguished diplomat died over the weekend, according to sources.

Yuchengco was the longtime chairman of Pan Malayan Management and Investment Corporation (PMMIC) and honorary chairman of the board of MICO Equities, the holding companies of the Yuchengco Group of Companies (YGC).

He was also honorary chairman of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) before he retired last year.

Unique taipan

Yuchengco was unlike other rags-to-riches taipans such as Lucio Tan, Henry Sy Sr, and John Gokongwei. He was born into a rich family that was into lumber, construction, and trade in Manila.

Before World War II, he went to school in a fancy car, with a driver, and hobnobbed with mestizo classmates at La Salle.

It was there that Yuchengco, or “Al” or “AY” as his close friends called him, developed a broad perspective and openness to western ways, unlike the other taipans, which would serve him well in his business career.

He inherited a bustling insurance business from his father, Don Enrique Yuchengco, who had roots in Nan’an, Fujian.

After the war, Yuchengco diversified into banking, construction, and other industries. Current flagship firms include RCBC, Malayan Insurance (non-life insurance), and Grepalife (life insurance), construction firm EEI Corporation, and House of Investments.

Yuchengco was one of the strongest supporters of EDSA I and EDSA II, and a close ally of former presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He was also instrumental in the various transfers of control in PLDT, once the country’s largest corporation, which he bought majority shares of in the 1960s but was prevented from taking over by former president Ferdinand Marcos.

He was key to the transfer of the control of PLDT from Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco to current chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Among the controversies that haunted his family businesses was the collapse of pre-need firm Pacific Plans, which resulted in a class suit, and the Bangladesh Bank heist involving RCBC last year.

Legacy

Yuchengco is known for pioneering the introduction of credit cards and memorial plans in the Philippines.

He was among the first industrialists open to forming joint ventures to gain access to capital and technical know-how.

The two-tower, 46- and 41-storey RCBC Plaza, a landmark in financial capital Makati City, is a product of his partnership with the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. Various YGC firms have investments from Taiwan, Japan, the US, and other capitalists abroad.

Yuchengco’s eldest child, Helen Yuchengco Dee, was tapped to take the reins of YGC during a board meeting in 2003, a rarity for a Filipino-Chinese family where sons usually take over the business. They are 8 in the family, including 3 brothers who took on other roles.

The Yuchengcos are also among the prominent business families who have acquired a school. They bought into private engineering school Mapua Institute of Technology and turned around its finances.

Distinguished diplomat

Yuchengco also had a distinguished career as a diplomat.

He served as ambassador to China from 1986 to 1988 and ambassador to Japan from 1995 to 1998.

He was also the Philippines’ special envoy to China, Japan, and Korea, as well as Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2001 to 2002.

“I would rather lose a million dollars than to have my reputation tainted,” Yuchengco was once quoted as saying. – Rappler.com