The taipans of Cebu

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The taipans of Cebu
Cebu's tycoons have shaped not only the most significant center of commerce in the Visayas, but also the Philippines' business landscape

MANILA, Philippines – Did you know that some of the big names in today’s Philippine business hail from Cebu?

The 445-year-old city is considered a bustling center of commerce and trade outside of the country’s capital, Manila. The potential of the province did not go unnoticed to these enterprising immigrants and Filipinos, who surmounted all odds and built the business empires they are now known for.

As Cebu celebrated its 445th founding anniversary on August 6, Rappler listed 6 of the well-known entrepreneurial families from the province.

The Aboitizes

CARRYING ON THE LEGACY. (Seated) Ana Aboitiz-Delgado, Rafa de Mesa; (Standing from left) Carlos Aboitiz, Tristan Aboitiz, William Paradies. File photo by Peter Imbong

The Aboitizes, whose ancestors are from Basque, Spain, have been doing business for over a century, beginning in the early 1900s when the family started trading abaca (hemp).

Now, the Aboitiz Equity Ventures has a diverse source of wealth. Aside from the Aboitiz Power Corporation, where the bulk of its capital expenditures for 2014 went, it also runs the UnionBank of the Philippines; City Savings Bank; Pilmico Foods Corporation; Pilmico Animal Nutrition; AboitizLand; Cebu Industrial Park Developers, Inc; Mactan Export Zone 2; Aboitiz Construction Group, Inc; Metaphil Division; Tsuneishi Heavy Industries (Cebu), Inc; Seven Seas Resorts & Leisure, Inc; Aboitiz Foundation, Inc; and Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.

Forbes estimates the family’s net worth at $3 billion in 2013.

The Gaisanos

THE 'AYALA' MALL OF THE SOUTH. Gaisano mall in Cagayan De Oro. Image from Wikipedia

The Gaisano family is called the Ayalas of the South for operating malls across Visayas and Mindanao since the 1970s through its holding company Viscal Development Corporation

It was in 1970s when Doña Modesta Gaisano opened a small restaurant-cum-shop in Colon, Cebu, which would become the White Gold Department Store, the predecessor of Gaisano Malls.

After the death of Doña Modesta in 1981, her sons David, Stephen, Henry, Victor, and John divided their corporation and operated their own Gaisano Malls. 

Run today by second-generation Gaisanos, their malls now include Metro Gaisano Malls, Gaisano Country Malls, and the Gaisano Capital Group. The Gaisano Grand Malls, for instance, has 15 branches in Visayas and 9 branches in Mindanao.

The family also operates the Vicsal Investment, Inc; WealthBank; Vicsal Securities and Stock Brockerage, Inc; Fillipino Fund, Inc; Prime Asia Pawn & Jewelry Shop, Inc; Taft Property Venture Development Corporation; Pacfic Mall Corporation; Grand Holidays Travel And Tours, Inc; Cargo Bayan, Inc; and Vicsal Foundation, Inc.

The Gos

ENTREPRENEURIAL VOYAGE. The Gos' MV Princess of the South. Image from Wikipedia

Before the Gokongweis afforded budget air travels across the world, Don Sulpicio Go made Filipinos travel from one island to another through its shipping company, the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation, known as Sulpicio Lines.

In 1974, Don Sulpicio left his post as general manager at his brother’s Gothong Shipping Company to launch Sulpicio Lines.

But Go’s entrepreneurial voyage in the maritime industry would later involve numerous peacetime maritime disasters. Since 1987, a number of its vessels figured in mishaps that claimed more than 5,000 lives.

Its M/V Princess of the Stars capsized on June 21, 2008 off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon. The victims’ families demanded the company to be responsible for allowing the vessel to depart while Typhoon Frank was battering the province.

In 2013, the Court of Appeals cleared the shipping line from criminal charges, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court a year later.

The Gokongweis

FATHER AND SON. (From left) Lance and John Gokongwei Jr. grace the arrival ceremony of its 2nd Airbus A330-300 aircraft on September 12, 2013. File photo by EPA

John Gokongwei Jr, founder of conglomerate JG Summit, migrated to Cebu to escape poverty in Fujian province in China where he was born.

Since then, Gokongwei has built a diverse source of wealth estimated at $4.9 billion in 2014, according to Forbes

JG Summit’s businesses include Universal Robina Corporation; real estate and property development Robinson’s Land Corporation and United Industrial Corporation in Singapore; budget air carrier Cebu Pacific; JG Summit Petrochemicals Corporation; JG Summit Olefins Corporation; and Robinsons Bank Corporation.

The Gokongweis also holds 27.1% share in Manila Electric Company (Meralco), and 8% share in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company.

Forbes ranks Gokongwei as the 5th top billionaire in the Philippines in 2014.

The Gotianuns

INTO BANKING. Gotianun also runs East West Bank, among its other business interests. Image from the Filinvest Group website

Chinese-Filipino entrepreneur Andrew Gotianun’s net worth is $977 million this year, according to Forbes.

The Gotianuns run Filinvest Land and the East West Bank through Filinvest Development Corporation.

Filinvest is one of the country’s leading real estate developers. It is developing the Seascapes Resort Town on Mactan Island, and a residential condominium at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

Gotianun is also the chairman of Pacific Sugar Holdings Corporation which owns 3 Mindanao-based sugar companies.

Recently, the Gotianun-led group has ventured in power, building a P30-billion ($681-million*), 405-megawatt coal plant in Misamis Oriental for commercial operation by 2016.

The Lhuilliers

FROM PAWNBROKING TO MONEY REMITTANCE. A Cebuana Lhuilllier Pera Padala branch in Angeles City, Pampanga. Image from Wikipedia

The Lhuilliers own the largest chain of pawnshops in the country with over 1,700 branches nationwide.

The family began venturing in pawnbroking in 1935 when Henry Lhuillier opened the family’s first pawnshop in Cebu. 

Philippe Jones Lhuillier, son of the late French consul to the Philippines Henry Lhuillier, is currently the chairman of Cebuana Lhuillier Pawnshop, a subsidiary of the PJ Lhuillier Group of Companies (PJLGC).

PJLGC also runs the international money remittance service Cebuana Lhuillier Services Corporation; Cebuana Lhuillier Insurance Solutions; Cebuana Lhuillier Bank; luxury hotel Le Soleil de Boracay; Just Jewels Diamonds and Boutique Corporation; Phiten Philippines; sports accessories and apparel provider Sports, Entertainment, Events Management, Inc; Cebuana Lhuillier ICT solution provider Network Capital Ventures, Inc; and the PJ Lhuillier Foundation, Inc. Mick Basa /






*($1 = P43.93)

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