Over the past decade, plus one year, if anyone in the Philippines would try to find out who the richest man in the country was, the answer would come up as Henry Sy Sr., founder of the SM chain of malls which in itself is but one part of a massive national conglomerate. The status of Sy as the Philippines’ wealthiest was affirmed for 11 straight years by Forbes magazine, and when he died this last January 19 his $19 billion net worth estimate ranked him as the world’s 53rd richest person. But as stated, Sy is dead. Who then is the richest Filipino now?
CNN reports that the wealthiest person in the Philippines following the death of Henry Sy is none other than business magnate and politician Manny Villar. This was determined by Forbes in a list the international business magazine released Tuesday, March 5, or 45 days since Sy’s passing. It is interesting to note however that there has been a significant drop in the net worth of the wealthiest Filipino from Sy to Villar. The latter’s Forbes-recorded net worth is $5.5 billion. While a good increase from its flat $5 billion standing last year, it is still $14 billion short of the elder Sy’s last recorded value.
Both Henry Sy and Manuel Villar Jr. started from very humble backgrounds prior to making their fortunes. The former was the child of immigrants from Fujian, China while the latter was born in Tondo, the go-to Manila locale for portraying poverty Philippine pop culture. From his short stint in accounting and financing, Villar would go to business in real estate.
Currently he is chairman of major developer Vista & Landscape as well as the Starmalls chain, and has gotten plenty of mileage from hyping his humble origins in politics, serving in Congress as Representative and then Senator. He ultimately made a presidential bid in 2010, where his campaign jingle asking people if they had experienced “swimming in a sea of garbage” became an ear-worm. He placed third in the vote that elevated Benigno “Noy-Noy” Aquino III to the Presidency instead.
Rounding out the latest Forbes list of richest Filipinos with Villar are: John Gokongwei Jr ($5.1 billion); Enrique Razon Jr. ($4.8 billion); Lucio Tan ($4.4 billion); Tony Tan Caktiong & Family ($3.9 billion); Ramon Ang ($2.9 billion); Andrew Tan ($.27 billion); Hans Sy and Robert Sy ($2.4 billion); Harley Sy, Henry Sy, Jr., and Teresita Sy-Coson ($2.2 billion); Elizabeth Sy ($1.9 billion); Eduardo Cojuangco and Robert Coyiuto, Jr. ($1.4 billion); Ricardo Po Sr. & Family ($1.2 billion); and Roberto Ongpin ($1.1 billion). The late Sy’s children occupy the middle of the ranking list as shown.
Globally, Manny Villar is the 317th richest person in the world, compared to the current top guy, Jeff Bezos of Amazon ($131 billion net worth).
Image courtesy of Philippine Star