Roles Henry Sy sons play
The eldest son and namesake of Henry Sy Sr, the country's richest, will be newly merged SM Prime's strategist, while younger son Hans will be the 'executioner'

DEFINING ROLES. The sons of Henry Sy Sr have roles to play in the newly merged SM Prime units. Photo by Aya Lowe/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Two of the 6 children of the country’s richest man finalized and identified their roles in the newly merged integrated real estate company set to expand more aggressively beyond Philippine borders.

Henry Jr, 59, eldest son and third child of “Retail King” and SM malls founder Henry Sy Sr, will assume the position as the chairman of the recently merged firm. Younger brother Hans Sy, 57, will retain his role as president.

“He’s (Henry Jr) the thinker and I’m the executioner…We work well together,” Hans told reporters on Thursday, July 10.

On July 10, stockholders approved the plan to fold Henry Jr’s SM Development Corp (SMDC) into Hans’ SM Prime, the surviving entity.

In effect, Hans’ property development firm will take over Henry Jr’s residential and commercial company. Who calls the shots makes another difference.

“I will rely on him to think ahead and he will rely on me to execute things properly…It’s going to be very much team work,” Hans explained.

This marks another change in the Sy clan’s second generation who were captain of their respective ships.

Hans, a mechanical engineering graduate, stepped up as president of SM Prime in 2004, overseeing its expansion, leading to the current network of 47 malls in the Philippines and a couple more in China where his father was born.

Henry Jr, also referred to as “Big Boy,” was considered a late bloomer in the family in terms of being more involved in the business. He was initially into land acquisitions and design ideas, and then power distribution and condominium building. Spotting an opportunity in the middle to affordable markets, he grew SMDC to become one of the country’s most aggressive developers growing leaps and bounds every year.

Read: Sy-led SMDC earns P1.4-B in Q1, up 14%

Other siblings have played their own roles in growing the family’s burgeoning empire.

The eldest, Teresita, 62, handles the banking and financial giant, BDO Unibank Inc, while sister Elizabeth, 60, oversees the increasing involvement of the group in the tourism and hospitality industry sector, via unit SM Hotels & Conventions Corp.

Herbert, 56, heads retail merchandising via units Supervalue Inc. and Super Shopping Market Inc., while another son, Harley, 53, is in charge of the department stores via SM Retail, Inc, as well as the president of the holding firm, SM Investments Corp.

Read: Sy-led SMIC posts 22% jump in Q1 earnings

The merger aims to create a full-range property development arm that would combine residential, hotel, office and shopping mall businesses into one corporate vehicle that will make the group more attractive to institutional investors, giving the group financial muscle when expanding.

China, where SM malls are contributing 10% of the group’s bottom-line, is on top of the expansion list, according to SM Prime CFO Jeffrey Lim.

Hans said Henry Jr’s expertise in residential and commercial development will piggyback on SM Malls’ business experience and network of contacts in China.

The goal is to develop more integrated projects, replicating the Mall of Asia concept, in areas the group is present in or will expand to. Read: More Mall of Asia-like projects for merged SM units – with reports from Aya Lowe/Rappler


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