JOHN Gokongwei Jr., a pillar of Philippine business who built an empire that spanned property, power, retail, air transportation, hospitality, media, banking and food, died peacefully late Saturday (November 9) at the age of 93, his family announced.
“Our beloved husband, father and grandfather John Gokongwei Jr. passed away peacefully 1141pm November 9th at the Manila Doctors 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,” said an SMS from his son Lance, sent to Esquire Philippines.
Mr. John, as he is popularly called, built his empire from scratch, working early on in his hometown in Cebu, after which his airline Cebu Pacific, the leading Philippine carrier, was named.
His rags-to-riches story has made him one of Philippine business’s icons in entrepreneurship.
The patriarch had passed on the helm of his diverse businesses to his children many years ago. Lance is chief executive officer of Cebu Pacific while his sister Robina Gokongwei-Pe oversees the retail side as CEO of Robinsons Retail. Their sister Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng heads summit media.
Lance, groomed early on by his father to steer the business, is president and CEO of the holding firm JG Summit. His uncle James Go is chairman and chief operating officer there.
Gokongwei has consistently landed on Forbes’ list of the Philippines’s richest men. In the latest listing, he was ranked third richest. His estimated net worth is $5.8 billion.
When he turned 80, he donated half of his shares in JG Summit — estimated at P20 billion then– to the family foundation, saying he wanted to give back to people after being blessed so much.