Fernando Zobel de Ayala not keen to honor McMicking

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SEVEN months ago on April 12, 2014, I wrote a column entitled “Honoring J. R. McMicking – Visionary Builder of Makati.” The advocacy of the article was to duly honor Joseph R. “Joe” McMicking, the acknowledged Brains of Ayala Corporation and the Visionary who built the present-day Makati after the great devastation of World War II.

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Without Joe McMicking, there won’t be the Makati we know today with all the office and residential condominium buildings, five-star hotels like Shangri-La, Peninsula, Mandarin (recently closed) and Intercon, and excellent shopping malls like Greenbelt and Glorietta located in the Central Business District (CBD). There would probably be No 25-Year Master Plan that guided the development of Makati from the 1950s to 1970s.

Likewise, if not for Mr. McMicking, the residential subdivisions of San Lorenzo, Bel-Air, Magallanes and San Miguel built in the 1950s and 1960s may not have happened. The same is true for the upscale and exclusive enclaves of Forbes Park, Dasmariñas and Urdaneta villages. Furthermore, the same is true for the companies and their warehouses and/or factories (light-industry) along Pasong Tamo from Fort Bonifacio to Vito Cruz St.

Thus, I supported the proposal of former Senator Rene A. V. Saguisag to rename Makati Avenue to J. R. McMicking Ave. after the Visionary Builder of Makati. My good friend and Manila Times colleague wrote a column to honor Mr. McMicking in the same month of April this year. However, both our articles were ignored by the Ayala Corporation and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), although the controlling shareholders of Ayala can trace their wealth to the McMicking Vision.

Meeting of Rene Saguisag and Joe McMicking
My friend Rene Saguisag personally met Joe McMicking in the early 1970s right after finishing his Masters Degree at the Harvard Law School. Rene was doing his internship for a top law firm in San Francisco whose clients happened to include Mr. McMicking. When the latter learned that a Filipino lawyer from Harvard was working there, he invited the future presidential legal counsel and senator to see him.

The meeting ended with Mr. McMicking offering Atty. Saguisag a job at Ayala Corporation in Makati upon his return back home. However, as fate would have it, Rene opted not to work for Ayala, but instead worked for the Filipino people as a distinguished human rights lawyer. Rene has written interesting anecdotes of his meeting with Joe McMicking in San Francisco in several of his Manila Times columns. The stories reveal how talented Mr. McMicking was as a businessman or entrepreneur, as well as his sense of wit and humor—and the sincerity in offering to help Saguisag in any way he could.

There is the Joseph R. McMicking Foundation based in San Francisco that is still active until today. The late Joe McMicking and his wife Mercedes Zobel were active in the philanthropic work in the Bay Area. And the reason for their stay in San Francisco is because Joe McMicking and his brother were among the first venture capitalists in California as early as the late 1940s.

Contribution of J.R. McMicking to Ayala Corporation
I read the website of Ayala Corporation and was surprised that what was written in the “History” of the country’s oldest and biggest company did not reflect the contributions of J. R. McMicking. It appears that there was either an oversight or a conscious effort to downplay his role in Ayala and in the Making of Makati.

In the section entitled “Master Plan” covering the period 1951 to 1982, there was hardly mention of Joe McMicking except that “Joseph and Mercedes Zobel McMicking established the Filipinas Foundation.” It was if Joe McMicking was not at the helm of Ayala Corporation from 1950s to 1960s – and earlier.

In the earlier period from 1900 to 1950 entitled “New Dispensation,” there were several allusions to and direct mention of J. R. McMicking, but they also did not give any insights of his contributions to Ayala Corporation. The allusion in 1929 says “Mercedes Zobel marriage in 1931will bring another brilliant son-in-law who will help shape the future of Ayala.” The first one was Antonio Ayala who married Margarita Roxas, the Matriarch of the Ayala company.

Another pathetic entry in 1931 said “Joseph R. McMicking, son of Jose McMicking, Mercedes Zobel de Ayala and becomes the Managing Partner.” It gives the wrong impression that the only qualification of Mr. McMicking was being the husband of Mercedes Zobel. There was also a wrong entry in 1943 about the death of Enrique Zobel de Ayala and “leaving the management to his son Alfonso and son-in-law, Joseph McMicking,” McMicking was in Australia that time with General Douglas MacArthur!

Speaking of Ayala Corporation, it was J. R. McMicking who organized the transformation of the partnership of Ayala y Compania to Ayala Corporation in 1968 and later had it listed in the stock market. It was his 25-Year Master Plan that guided the development of Makati as well as the growth of Ayala Corporation. Joseph and Mercedes later left for Spain in the late 1960s to develop exclusive Sotogrande in southern Spain.

Change of street names in Makati
There have been a number of changes in street names in Makati like Buendia Ave. to Sen. Gil Puyat in honor of the late Senate President. Part of Pasong Tamo is now Don Chino Roces Ave, in honor of the Manila Times publisher and later the street parliamentarian who fought the Marcos regime.

There is also the change of name of Pasay Road to “A. Arnaiz Avenue” in 1984 to honor a Philippine aviation pioneer. However, Mr. Antonio Arnaiz is virtually a complete unknown that people are wondering who he really is. Francis Arnaiz, the popular basketball player of Toyota in the 1970s, is far more famous than Mr. A. Arnaiz.

Of course, the changes of street names mentioned were done through legislation or act of Congress. In the case of Makati Avenue, it would be easier to change its name to J. R. McMicking because it is still owned by Ayala Land, Inc. and does not need legislation.

A final word
Mr. Chairman of Ayala Land, Inc. if you would like to discuss the matter of honouring Joseph R. McMicking with me, perhaps you can return my phone call of last May 2014. Your secretary promised to return my call to arrange my appointment with you after the World Economic Forum (WEF) Summit in Manila and the planning session of Ayala Land. I have not heard from your office since last May. It has been six months.

rbrpilipinas@gmail.com

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17 Comments

  1. westphilippines on

    I wish somebody should remind if not stop Jejomar Binay in claiming he made Makati! He can not do it to the country because he has done nothing! What Makati is now is because of the vision of McMicking and the Ayalas. Mabuhay ka!

  2. Fatima Phoenix on

    Isn’t the campus of the Asian Institute of Management near Greenbelt officially called the “Joseph R McMicking Campus”?

  3. Response to Vic Yam — I do not know where you are coming from with your unsubstantiated innuendos and “big can of worms”. Yes, Enrique Zobel de Ayala (1877-1943), was a senior managing partner at Ayala y Cia and was a special aide to President Quezon. When he found out that the Neilson group had proposed to Pres. Quezon the building of an airport, he offered a section of the Hacienda San Pedro. The Neilson Airport LEASED the land from Ayala y Cia — the land was never owned by Neilson nor any of the carriers operating out of that airport (American Far Eastern School of Aviation, Philippine Aerial Taxi Company (PATCO), Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company, Philippine Air Lines, etc.). The Neilson Airport was heavily damaged during the war and when the new Manila airport was built (1948), the lease was terminated and Neilson Airport returned possession of the land plus the existing airport facilities (tower, passenger terminal, hangars, etc.) to the land owners — Ayala y Cia.

  4. Enough of this practice of renaming streets! Just causes confusion. Buildings, offices and companies will have to spend on adjusting their receipts and stationery and signage to reflect the change. Build a new road and name it after McMicking (which the average Pinoy will have difficulty pronouncing!) If you are so keen in perpetuating McMicking’s name, why not call Makati McMicking!

    • It is always important to HONOR persons who have contributed something to society either through their courage and/or talents. Issues on changing the addresses in stationery and receipts is NOT a problem Just use them all and then use the new name of the street when you re-order. Companies like those along Makati Avenue would order their envelopes, stationery and receipts at least twice a year.

  5. From the readings I have gathered, Joseph Mcmicking was indeed a visionary. Proof of this is his masterpiece development in Spain, Sotogrande. Story is that the helm of the Ayala Corporation was passed down to Jacobo Zobel who was running the corporation with his son Enrique Zobel (EZ) and son-in-law Joseph Mcmicking. These three gents were responsible for the post-WWII expansion of Makati real estate as the former center of commerce and business, Manila, was badly damaged during the war. EZ took over as heir to Ayala Corp., however, due to a failed bid to take over San Miguel from their Soriano cousins where EZ in frustration sold his block of shares in SMC to Danding Cojuangco (who bought these with the Coco levy fund), EZ was booted out of the Ayala leadership and the next eligible candidate was his until-then less visible cousin, Jaime Zobel (JSZ also aka Don Jaime). Since EZ and JSZ also supported opposite sides of the political spectrum – EZ was with Marcos and JSZ supported Cory, it is possible that there was cousin-rivalry. A hypothesis I have is that the sons of JSZ, JAZA and FEZA, view Joseph Mcmicking as being on the side of EZ their father’s rival, so they refuse to acknowledge his contributions to the Ayala legacy. An additional tidbit of information for all is that currently, the person with largest shares in Ayala Corp. is actually Inigo Zobel, son of EZ. I wonder how that will play out especially when time comes for JAZA and FEZA to retire.

    • Yes, Joseph & Mercedes Zobel McMicking developed the luxurious and exclusive Sotogrande at Costa del Sol in Spain. It is a far upscale development than Makati where the elite of Spain and other parts of Europe would own properties and/or go to.

      Joseph McMicking became the Managing Partner of Ayala in 1931. During WW II, management was left to Alfonso Zobel, father of Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala. Jacobo Zobel, father of Enrique, pursued his miitary career and reached the rank of Colonel. He was imprisoned by the Japanese with the fall of Bataan. I am not sure now if he was with the Death March from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac.

      Hence, Jacobo Zobel was not really involved with Ayala. In fact, he sold his shares to his sister Mercedes. Enrique Zobel was appointed Managing Director and/or President of Ayala Corporation through the controlling interest of Joseph and Mercedes Zobel in Ayala Corporation. Enrique ( EZ or ENZO) was their favorite nephew, the son they never had since they were childless like James and Consuelo Zobel Alger. Consuelo is the half-sister of Mercedes.

      EZ or ENZO was appointed because Joseph McMicking focused on the Sotogrande project in the late 1960s after the land was consolidated. A first-cousin of Mercedes Zobel McMicking helped surveyed the land that would be consolidated. His mother was Magarita Zobel, sister of Enrique Zobel, father of Mercedes and Consuleo Zobel. The father was a Melian from Spain who has the of a Count and founded what the Insular Life Insurance today.

  6. The issue about Neilson Field was a lot less complex. Neilson had leased the area where he developed the airfield as a private venture, and with his death (in Hong Kong at the hands of the Japanese, I understand), the vision died with him and it ultimately reverted to the family. So I see nothing nefarious about the post-war “transfer to McMicking.”

    About the other allegations, I know too little to comment.

  7. Joseph R. McMicking was born in 1908. He married Mercedes Zobel in 1931 and became involved with Ayala y Compañia whicc McMicking later reorganized into the present day Ayala Corporation. I doubt if McMicking became the aide of the President Manuel L. Quezon in the 1930s because he was involved with Ayala and too young then in his 20s. McMicking later became an intelligence officer of the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in 1941 and during WWW until 1945.

  8. Alam po ng lahat na newspaper readers at high society/politicos na 60 years old and above na si McMicking ang Architect ng pag-unlad ng Ayala Land. Kaso dedma na ang lahat dahil kinamkam na lahat ng Credit nila JAZA and Sons. Ganiyan po kakurap at hipocrite ang rich.

  9. Ay, ganoon ba yon, Mr. Ramos? At hindi pala si JAZA ang boss ng Ayala kungdi his FEZA? Ano kaya ang stand ni JAZA on this matter you have decided to expose?

    • JAZA is Chairman & CEO of Ayala Corporation. Fernando ZObel is the President and COO of Ayala Corporation. But Fernando Zobel is the Chairman of Ayala Land, Inc, in charge of real estate of Ayala.

  10. Raul D. Dioquino on

    I worked for 14 years with Ayala Corporation and E. Zobel Inc. combined. What great employers they are to be with. If I didn’t migrate to Canada, I should have stayed with them forever.

  11. Maybe the Ayala would want people not to know Mr. Mcmicking was use to be known as Col. Mcmicking . He and Col. Menzi are the 2 military aides behind . Pres. Quezon who controlled our country for the US . That bit of history if revealed will show why
    Makati known at that time as Neilson Airfield was transfer to Mcmiking after the war and a large part of Mindanao belonged to Menzi development .corporation . It is a
    big can of worms that needs to be open if our country must cleansed our ugly past
    and start a new Philippines . Only knowing what we did wrong in the past can we
    correct ourselves and make a better future .

    • From website of Ayala Corporation on Nielson Airport

      “1937
      This becomes the site of the country’s first commercial airport, servicing the first airline — the Philippine Air Taxi Company (later renamed as Philippine Air Lines and again as Philippine Airlines) and the Iloilo-Negros Air Express. Flights to Baguio, Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan, Leyte, Cebu, Camarines Sur, and Albay originate from Nielson Airport until World War II breaks out in the Pacific in 1941. It resumes operations in 1946. As Philippine commercial aviation continues to grow, airport operations will move to Nichols Airfield (today Villamor Air Base) in 1948.

      The Nielson airport’s two runways are the present-day prime business addresses Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. They form the sides of a triangle, with Culi-Culi Road (now Makati Avenue, another premium address) as the base. The former passenger terminal served different purposes at different times after World War II: as a police station; as an upscale restaurant; and as the site of the Filipinas Heritage Library until 2012.”