Sy clan, RP’s richest — Forbes mag

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SHOPPING mall mogul Henry Sy has become the richest man in the country after amassing $1.4 billion in the past year, while his peers were hit by the global financial crisis, it was announced by U.S. business magazine Forbes yesterday.

The fortune that Henry Sy made was the “biggest gain in absolute terms” of the country’s wealthiest 40 families, who saw their collective wealth plunge 18 percent amid the world credit turmoil, Forbes magazine said in a statement.

In its annual list of the country’s richest people, Forbes said the country’s stock exchange had dived 35 percent in the past year, making 25 out of 40 tycoons — including those in banking and real estate — poorer.

Forbes said the Sy family was now worth $3.1 billion, vaulting from second place to first.

The low-profile 83-year-old and his family control SM Investments, which own stakes in a dozen companies including the nation’s second largest bank.

Sy started off selling shoes to American GIs in the Philippines in 1958. From one store known as Shoemart, he built a multi-billion- dollar empire.

Today he is Asia’s biggest shopping mall operator with 30 mega malls throughout the country.

Jaime Zobel de Ayala and family slipped from first to third as their wealth suffered a massive drop of $800 million, to $1.2 billion, Forbes said.

The stock of their conglomerate Ayala Corp. is down 46 percent since last year in part because of the economic slowdown and declining profits in banking and electronics manufacturing units, it said.

Moving up to second position is Lucio Tan and family, with a net worth of $1.5 billion, although this is still down by $100 million from last year.

Tan controls Philippine airlines as well as the country’s largest cigarette firm, one of its largest brewers, mining operations and Hong Kong property.

Also hit hard is property tycoon Andrew Gotianun of Filinvest Land, who fell 10 places to 17th after losing $625 million to give him a net worth of $235 million.

Senate President Manuel Villar, the largest shareholder in high-end homebuilder Vista Land, also saw his wealth tumble 55 percent to $425 million to put him in 11th, down from fifth last year.

Another property kingpin, Andrew Tan, saw his net worth plunge $400 million to $700 million.

The 57-year-old made much of his wealth as an office developer for the outsourcing industry and is now betting on gaming and tourism.