FAST FACTS: Remembering Henry Sy Sr

Jodesz Gavilan
FAST FACTS: Remembering Henry Sy Sr
Learn more about the man who built SM

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy Sr died on Saturday, January 19, at the age of 94.

Born Sy Chi Sieng on October 15, 1924, Sy lived in Xiamen in China’s Fujian province where many Filipino-Chinese trace their roots. At 11 years old, Sy left his family and followed his father to the Philippines. (READ: FAST FACTS: SM Investments Corporation)

Sy worked in his father’s sari-sari store in Quiapo until after World War II, when his father returned to China. Sy eventually went to school and obtained an associate degree in commercial studies at the Far Eastern University. 

In the 1950s, Sy ventured into the business of selling surplus boots. He eventually opened ShoeMart in 1958 along Carriedo in Manila.


Since then, Sy enjoyed a steady climb to the top. He has been one of the country’s richest Filipinos since 2005.  

In 2018, Forbes ranked him richest Filipino and 52nd richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $20 billion as of 2018.

Sy was also known as a family man. His marriage to Felicidad Tan produced 6 children: Teresita, Elizabeth, Henry Jr, Hans, Herbert, and Harley.  

His businesses were not without controversy, as SM Supermalls had been accused of engaging in contractualization, which its executives denied.  The Department of Labor and Employment reported that SM Supermalls had regularized 11,660 workers as of December 2018. –


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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.