Enrique Zobel y Olgado

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Enrique Jacobo Emilio Zobel de Ayala y Olgado (January 7, 1927 –May 17, 2004), was a prominent Filipino businessman. He was an avid sportsman, philanthrophist and a columnist of Businessworld with his column "A Matter of Conscience". The only child of Bataan Death March survivor Colonel Jacobo Roxas Zobel and Angela Olgado, he was a member of the prestigious Zobel de Ayala family of the Philippines and a first cousin of Jaime Zobel de Ayala. He was affectionately called "EZ" or "Enzo".


When he was growing up, he quickly became the favorite relative of his aunt Doña Mercedes Zobel McMicking, the great matriarch of the clan, who together with her real estate genius husband Col. Joseph McMicking transformed Ayala Compañia into the powerhouse conglomerate based in their former Hacienda San Pedro de Macati. They took interest in his education and growth and groomed him together with other clan members for the family businesses. In the 1970s it was Doña Mercedes who chose him to lead their enterprises.

Zobel was chief executive officer of Ayala Corporation until 1983 and was credited with spearheading the transformation of Makati City into Metro Manila's financial center while in that position. In 1981, he founded the Makati Business Club, for he felt that the business community should speak out as a single solid voice, not to lobby for its own corporate or sectoral interest, but to support or oppose policies which affected national life. He would live to see the day the MBC would be the prime advocate of political change.

He had a bitter fight with his cousin Andres Soriano, Jr. on the direction that Mr. Soriano wanted to take San Miguel Corporation with Danding Cojuangco who was spurred by the Marcos dictatorship. Because of the displeasure of his aunt Doña Mercedes at his controversial decision to sell the Zobel de Ayala shares in San Miguel Corporation, he stepped down from the top management of the Ayala companies in 1983. He was succeeded by his first cousin Jaime Zobel de Ayala in 1984.

Even after his term at the Ayala group of companies he took on projects of unprecedented dimensions in Philippine economic history as Ayala International, Inc. president, building the Sultan's Palace at Brunei, the world's most expensive and biggest. Its official name was Istana Nurul Iman Palace at 2,152,782 square feet (or 200,000 square meters), with 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, 5 swimming pools, an air conditioned stable for the Sultan's 200 polo ponies, a 110-car garage, a banquet hall for 5,000 guests, and a mosque accommodating 1,500 people. Ayala International was hired as the project manager together with National Artist Leandro Locsin as its chief architect and international construction company Bechtel. It not only finished building the palace in 1984 at a cost USD $400 million, but also organized in 45 days the royal banquet for Brunei's independence day hosted by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and the Royal Family, with over 4000 guests and 450 dignitaries and heads of state, including sheiks from the Middle East, Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mohammad Mohathir of Malaysia, Prince Charles, Adnan Kashoggi, and President Ferdinand Marcos.

The Final Years

In 1990, he established the Enrique Zobel Foundation, which focuses on social and economic development projects in Calatagan, Batangas. Calatagan is the foundation’s main focus as it was EZ’s most beloved spot on earth. Though he twice gave away hundreds of hectares of land to landless farmers and their families, his main focus was education which he firmly believed would be the way out of poverty. Apart from these initiatives, he repaired typhoon-damaged schools and donated the land upon which he built school buildings. Today there are over 22 of these schools in Calatagan and Lian, Batangas under the auspices of the foundation.

On May 10, 1991 he was suffered a spinal injury and was paralyzed from the waist down after a accident in Soto Grande, Spain while playing polo. He had to stop all physical activities and instead he devoted his mind to helping people in Calatagan through his foundation.

He was a consummate pilot and was equally at home with jets, fixed-wing propeller planes and helicopters. Even just before he died he was looking for a small jet that could fly the distance from Manila to Hawaii, where he had a vacation home

He married Rocio Urquijo by whom he had 3 children: Santiago, Mercedes and Iñigo. Upon their separation, he married Dee Anne Hora, an American. Dee Zobel is the chairwoman of the Enrique Zobel Foundaton and continues his good works.

In February 2006 Van Heusen the shirtmaker sponsored the Enrique Zobel Cup to attract to Manila the finest polo players in the world for world-class matches at Manila Polo Club. Van Heusen vice president Lal Gopwani stated "We believe that Enrique Zobel is the true icon of power, vision, and excellence."


  • Enrique Zobel's widow Dee Hora Zobel interview with Philippine Tatler, March 2007

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