Tycoon Gokongwei Jr. dead at 93

CEBUANO tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. died on Saturday night, Nov. 9, 2019. He was 93.

A report by Esquire magazine, one of the publications of Gokongwei-owned Summit Publishing Company Inc., said it received the following text message from the tycoon’s only son Lance.

“Our beloved husband, father and grandfather John Gokongwei, Jr. passed away peacefully 11:41 pm, November 9th, at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital surrounded by his loved ones. Please pray for the repose of his soul. Details of his wake to follow. Rest In Peace, Mr. John.”

Gokongwei, who founded the conglomerate J.G. Summit Holdings Inc., had retired in 2016 and passed the leadership to Lance.

He was the third richest man in the Philippines, with a real-time net worth of $5.8 billion as of Nov. 9, 2019, according to Forbes Magazine.

Born in China and raised in Cebu, he sold peanuts, soap and candles at the age of 13 to help his family after the death of his father John Gokongwei Sr.

He also sold rubber tires, textiles and used clothing (ukay-ukay) and went into corn starch production, which marked the beginning of his vast business empire.

JG Summit is engaged in air transportation (Cebu Pacific Air), retail (Robinsons malls), real estate (through Robinsons Land Corp.), tourism (Summit and Go hotels), food and beverage (Universal Robina Corp.), banking, publishing and petrochemicals, among others.

Gokongwei was an alumnus of the University of San Carlos, which also conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Science in Business and Enterprise Development, Honoris Causa in January 2004.

The university cited him for being “a model and example of the creative business spirit and the confident entrepreneurial soul.”

Gokongwei was descended from Pedro Lee Singson Gotiaoco, an immigrant from Fujian province in China in the 19th century who became one of Cebu’s wealthiest.

One of Gotiaoco’s three sons, Go Chiong Ut, was the grandfather of Gokongwei.

Gotiaoco was also the grandfather of Augusto Go, University of Cebu president, and the father of Modesta Singson Gaisano, the late matriarch of the Gaisano clan.

News of Gokongwei’s death saddened members of Cebu’s business community.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Stanley Go said Cebu has lost a man who symbolized perseverance and innovation.

“Basically he is an inspiration to all Cebuanos businessmen, that you can bring your business beyond the borders of Cebu and to be able to present not just in the Philippines but globally competitive business,” Go said in a phone interview.

“If there is a saint for business, he represents the person. He is the businessmen and entrepreneurs’ inspiration,” said Nonoy Espeleta, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).

He said the CCCI plans to name a street or a foundation after Gokongwei to honor him.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia had this to say about his passing: “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of John Gokongwei, Jr., an inspirational visionary, game changer and icon. Above all, he was a great Cebuano who never forgot his Cebuano roots, epitomizing genuine Cebuano pride. Truly, a Garbo sa Sugbo.”

Gokongwei was responsible for “Cebu” to be forever etched in the annals of aviation history with the founding of Cebu Pacific, which is not only known nationwide but is also starting to make a name for itself in international flights, according to Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella.

“He was a titan in all respects—from business to philanthropy. A consummate leader, a transcendent entrepreneur, an accomplished family man. He is worthy of emulation and we can only hope and pray that another Cebuano like him will bring ‘Cebu’ to greater heights,” the mayor said. (MVI/With reports from JCT, PAC, RTF)