Unity in Lucio Tan’s empire

posted November 20, 2019 at 12:40 am
by  Tony Lopez
"‘His most fervent wish was for peace and harmony for all of us family members.’"


I heard Vivienne Tan’s tearful appeal for unity when I visited the wake of Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr. Wednesday (Nov. 13) at Heritage Park.

Vivienne is taipan Lucio Tan Jr.’s daughter by his first wife, Carmen. The taipan’s namesake and son, Lucio “Bong” Tan, was to be the heir to the top management and vast wealth of the sprawling publicly listed conglomerate LT Group which has a market value of P130 billion ($2.54 billion).

The businesses include airlines, banking, tobacco, property, beer, gin, and aircraft maintenance. The airline Philippine Airlines has been the most difficult to manage.

Lucio Tan Sr. owns 74.35 percent of LTG so that makes him at least $1.9 billion. Forbes lists Tan as the country’s sixth-richest with a net worth of $3.2 billion. 

The brother-sister tandem of Bong and Vivienne were trying to put PAL losses under control. Under professional manager president Jaime Bautista, PAL became the world’s most improved airline and the only Philippine carrier to have a four-star rating. PAL’s massive fleet modernization and expansion came at huge but unavoidable losses.

Bong died of brain aneurysm on Monday, Nov. 11 at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center, two days after he collapsed on Saturday, Nov. 9 while playing basketball, his favorite sport.

Kapitan Lucio is the youngest and the lone survivor of the six taipans who came to the Philippines from southern China just before or during World War II. Gone are: Andrew Gotianun (who died in 2016 at 89); Alfonso Yuchengco (2017 at 94), George Ty (2018 at 86), Henry Sy Sr. (Jan. 19, 2019 at 95); and John Gokongwei Jr. (who died on Nov. 9, 2019 at 93).

At Bong Tan’s wake, Vivienne shared that “he [Bong] passed away at his peak, working on making things ‘maayos’ within our families.  His ways might not always have been perfect, but his intentions were always pure.”

“I now pray and ask that may his death not be in vain. His most fervent wish was for peace and harmony for all of us family members. As rumors go around these days about how things will be divided, my appeal to all sides who believe in our father’s legacy is for us to see and do things differently. This is not a time to start planning on whose side you will be, but on helping our families unite once and for all,” the feisty Vivienne added.

“Bong dreamed of stitching all of us families together in one united, peaceful whole,” she said. “I strongly believe his dream of peace and harmony is a good dream for all of us to share. Let’s not let his dream die with him. Together, let’s honor him by taking his dream and turning it into a reality...Ahia, I know you are watching all of us and I promise you that we will not give up in continuing your efforts.”

Lucio Tan’s son by his second wife, Michael Tan, is the president-COO of LT Group Inc.. Vivienne is second in command at flag carrier PAL. Bong Tan had just been installed as president of PAL Holdings, PAL’s mother company, when he died. 

Meanwhile, may I share PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna’s well-written tribute to Bong Tan:

Lucio 'Bong'Tan, Jr. was the fifth child in a brood of seven children. Schooled in the Philippines for primary education, Bong Tan studied high school at Dunman in Singapore, then spent two years of intensive Chinese language and studies at Beijing University. 

He earned his college degree at the University of California, where he majored in civil engineering, minor in mathematics, economics and linguistics. He also took up ancient Chinese classics and Mandarin in keeping with the wishes of his father. 

The young Tan took his Executive Master of Business Administration program at Kellogg University via a link-up with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

After his studies, his father, Dr. Lucio C. Tan immersed Bong in the nitty gritty of the business. His involvement in the LT Group of Companies started to unfold. 

He spent over two decades of his life actively involved in the companies within the LT Group.

He served as President of PAL Holdings; Vice Chairman of Philippine Airlines; President of Tanduay Distillers Inc and Eton Properties Philippines, Inc.; director/executive vice president of Fortune Tobacco Corp.; director of AlliedBankers Insurance Corp., Philippine Airlines, Inc., Philippine National Bank, LT Group, Inc.

He was also a director of MacroAsia Corp., Victorias Milling Company Inc., PMFTC Inc., Lucky Travel Corp., Air Philippines Corp., Absolut Distillers Inc., Asia Brewery Inc., Foremost Farms Inc., Himmel Industries Inc., Progressive Farms Inc., The Charter House Inc., Grandspan Development Corp. and Shareholdings, Inc. 

But amidst these corporate responsibilities and fancy titles, when asked to describe himself, he said "lover of life." He loved life's simple joys. He loved a good bottle of red wine, and at times, a cup of tea to cap his day.  He loved helping PAL choose the best wines for its flights. 

Basketball was his passion. Under his tutelage, Tanduay Rum won grand slam championships in the Philippine Basketball League in the 1990s. He had a sincere desire to see Filipino athletes excel and even established a Foundation to help outstanding yet financially-challenged youths excel in the sport. 

He was also an active player of the PAL Basketball Team and Tanduay Basketball Team and coached the UE Warriors Basketball Team. 

Not many know it, but Bong Tan was a regular at Baclaran Church in Manila every Wednesday where he spent precious time in prayer. He would also take the MRT or Metro Rail Transit when it was the most practical option. He also shunned suits and neckties and opted to wear comfortable and colorful tops at business meetings sans socks. 

That was Bong Tan. A class by himself. A lover of life which he lived to the fullest.

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Topics: Tony Lopez , Vivienne Tan , Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr. , Lucio Tan Sr. , LT Group
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