John Gokongwei, Jr.

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John L. Gokongwei Jr. (born August 11, 1926 in Gulangyu, Xiamen, Fujian Province, China) is a Chinese-Filipino businessman with diverse businesses that includes telecommunications, financial services, petrochemicals, property development, aviation and live stock farming. In 2010, Forbes listed Gokongwei as the third richest man in the Philippines with a networth of USD1.5 billion (P66 billion).


Early beginnings

John Gokongwei was born to John Gokongwei Sr., and Juanita Marquez Lim. When he was just barely a year old, both his parents migrated and settled in Cebu. Unlike some of his contemporary Chinese-Filipino businessmen, Gokongwei lived a privileged life then. His father owned the biggest movie house in Cebu and Gokongwei Jr. would often treat his friends.

But in 1939, Gokongwei Sr. suddenly passed away after a wrong blood transfusion needed after he contracted typhoid fever. All their assets were immediately seized by the creditors and the young Gokongwei was barred from entering their movie house. Gokongwei revealed in interviews that it was a very humiliating experience. His mother Juanita had no choice but to break up the family and send some of his siblings back to China. Gokongwei was left under the care of his granduncle, Manuel Gotianuy.

Business career

After the Second World War broke out, Gokongwei was forced to fend for himself after his granduncle could no longer support him. During those years, the young Gokongwei, pedalled his wares using his bicycle. It was his first taste of being a businessman.

But Gokongwei was ambitious and was not contented in just peddling his wares by bicycle. He then entered what he called the “Batel Age”. He would travel from Cebu to Manila selling stuffs via the batel or a small boat. Once, the batel he was riding sank after hitting a rock. The other passengers clung on to the tires he was going to sell upon reaching Manila and thus, preventing Gokongwei from losing his wares.

Seeing an opportunity for import trading, Gokongwei established his first company, American-Asia Trading. However, he quickly realized that tariffs will eat up his margins and so he ventured into manufacturing business and set up Universal Corn Products in 1956 using a loan granted to him by Dr. Alberto SyCip, father of Washington SyCip and the Chairman of the Board of China Bank. Ten years later, he established Universal Robina Corporation (PSE: URC), makers of popular snack food products such as Jack & Jill, Cloud 9 and Great Taste Coffee.

In 1968, he put up his first retail store, Cebu Foodarama.

In 1980, Gokongwei entered the real estate industry by establishing Robinsons Land Corporation (PSE: RLC) which operates on four markets namely: shopping malls (Robinsons Malls), office and high-rise residential buildings (Galleria Corporate Center, Robinsons Summit), private housing (Robinsons Homes) and hotels (Crowne Plaza). It was publicly listed in 1989.

In 1990, the JG Summit Holdings was incorporated (PSE: JGS). It was listed on August 9, 1993 and acted as the holding firm for all of Gokongwei’s companies.

In 1994, the JG Summit Petrochemical Corporation, the first and largest integrated polyethylene and polypropylene petrochemical facility was established In that same year, Gokongwei acquired 20 percent stake in the Toledo Power Corporation.

In 1995, Summit Media was launched with its first magazine, “Preview”.

In 1996, Gokongwei acquired Cebu Pacific (PSE: CEB)with four DC-9 aircrafts. The aviation company claimed the number one spot in domestic market. It had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on October 26, 2010.

In 1997, Gokongwei Group of Companies entered the financial services by putting up Robinsons Savings Bank, a thrift bank.

In 2000, Gokongwei opened the first Mini-Stop Convenience Store.

In 2003, he launched Sun Cellular under Digital Telecommunications (PSE: DGTL) (acquired in 1993) to compete against telecommunication giants Globe Telecom and Smart Communications.


In 1992, Gokongwei established the nonstock, nonprofit Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF). The GBF provides funding for education projects. Among the beneficiaries of the GBF were: Xavier School, Immaculate Conception Academy, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University and University of San Carlos. The GBF has also established a technical training facility.

In 2006, on his 80th birthday, Gokongwei donated his 25 percent shareholdings in JG summit or P10.25 billion pesos to his foundation, Gokongwei Brothers Foundation. He also donated another P50 million to University of San Carlos.

In 2007, the launched the GBF China Scholars, in which 34 Filipinos were selected for a full year of scholarship to Beijing Language and Culture University in Beijing, China.

In 2008, he was a recipient of Forbes Asia magazine's Philanthropy award, which also included Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Ramon del Rosario and Oscar Lopez.

Personal life

Gonkonwei is married to Elizabeth Yu-Gokongwei. His children, Lance Gokongwei, Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, Robina Gokongwei-Pe, Faith Gokongwei-Lim, Marcia Gokongwei-Sy and Hope Gogkongwei-Tang hold various positions in the Gokongwei Group.

He is the cousin of Andrew Gotianun, also a descendant of the prominent Go clan. His great-grandfather Don Pedro Gotiaoco, a Chinese immigrant during the 19th century, became one of the richest Filipino during those times.

He received his Masters in Business Administration in De La Salle University and attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

In 2007, his biography, John L. Gokongwei Jr.: The Path of Entrepreneurship written by Dr. Marites A. Khanser, was launched at Ateneo de Manila University.

External links




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