A poor man’s journey to prosperity


Dr. Lucio C. Tan is a by-word is Philippine business; his rags-to-riches story, well-known.

Originally from Amoy—now , Xiamen—in China, young Lucio Tan moved to the Philippines, tracing a route similar—but in reverse—to that which many Filipino emigrants take: first landing in anonymity in a foreign land; then working extra hard, in double- or triple-time to make ends meet, coming face-to-face with frustration at many turns; then jumping at opportunities that have become catapults to a better life.

His story seems to play out every single day at our country’s airports and seaports, where Lucio Tans in the making, leave their loves and homes to similarly stake their claims on futures much better than the present handed them by circumstance.

His story, along with its painfully familiar twists and turns, certainly is a life lesson—an aspiration even.

Along the way, Dr. Lucio Tan built his business conglomerate that now includes:

LT Group Inc., the holding company with the following investments:

• Banking (Philippine National Bank which is which is one of the largest universal banks in the country)

• Distilled spirits through Tanduay Distillers, Inc. which is the third largest producer of distilled spirits in the Philippines. It is primarily known for its wide assortment of rum, which includes Tanduay Five Years Fine Dark Rhum)

Young Lucio Tan

• Beverages through Asia Brewery Inc., one of the Philippines’ leading producers of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, such as Cobra Energy drinks, bottled water under the Absolute and Summit brands, Vitamilk soymilk and Creamy Delight yogurt. The alcoholic business, which includes beer and Tanduay alcopop, were spun off into a joint venture with Heineken in 2016. Asia Brewery is also a major producer of packaging materials, including glass bottles.

• PMFTC, for tobacco, a business combination entered in 2010 between the local unit of Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco Corporation. PMFTC is the leading tobacco manufacturer and distributor in the Philippines and has a diversified portfolio of brands across all consumer segments, including Marlboro, Fortune, Jackpot and Philip Morris.

Former Chief Justice Antonio Panganiban (2nd from left) receives the check from TYKFI Chairman and President Dr. Lucio Tan and Trustee Washington Sycip (RIP) and Mrs. Carmen Tan.

• Property development (Eton Properties Philippines, Inc. which has a diverse portfolio of property development projects primarily in Metro Manila and surrounding areas. Its project portfolio comprises of residential real estate projects and BPO Office buildings and commercial properties for lease.)

• Thirty percent-owned Victorias Milling Company, which is one of the country’s largest sugar refineries and is located in Victorias City, Negros Occidental

• LT Group has a joint venture with Ayala Land for Parklinks, a 35-hectare township project located in Quezon City and Pasig City.

PAL Holdings, which is the holding company for Philippine Airlines (PAL), the country’s flag carrier, and PAL Express. The route network covers 33 points in the Philippines and 43 international destinations. The airline is in an expansion mode, adding brand new aircraft to build a global network. The PAL group operates the only nonstop air links between the Philippines and the UK, New Zealand, Canada, the US mainland and Hawaii, and more flights from the Philippines to China, Japan, the Middle East and Australia than any other airline. It is also aiming to join the elite group of the world’s certified five-star airlines. PAL begins 2018 with a fleet of 88 aircraft, the largest in the Philippines.

Dr. Lucio Tan presents scholarship grants in one of the students.

MacroAsia Corporation (MAC) which is one of the leading providers of aviation-related support services in the Philippines. It has a joint venture with Lufthansa Technik AG of Germany and specializes in base maintenance of the Airbus A320 family, A330, A340, and A380. Its clients are some of the most reputable airlines in the world which include Philippine Airlines, Qantas Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, AirAsia X, and the Jetstar Group. MacroAsia also provides in-flight catering services to the majority of international airlines that fly to Manila, as well as catering services to some institutional clients outside the airport. It also offers airport and ground handling services in three NAIA terminals, as well as in airports Mactan, Cebu; Davao City; Kalibo and General Santos City.

Pan Asia Securities, a brokerage firm; hotels like Century Park Hotel and Charter House; Lucky Travel Agency; Himmel Industries, an industrial products company; Foremost Farms, an agribusiness firm;The University of the East, a private university in Manila founded in 1946 and was acquired by Tan in 1990. UE was once labeled as the “largest university in Asia” once having an enrollment of over 60,000 students

Hard work
When Tan took up chemical engineering at the Far Eastern University, he had to mop floors to put himself to college; today, he owns the neighboring University of the East—and contributes heavily to the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce’s Operation Barrio Schools, the largest and longest-running private sector-led school building program with more than 10,740 classrooms constructed since 1960.

How did he do it? How did he go from one-time working student to a tycoon now consistently ranked one of the richest in the Philippines?

Tan has been quoted as saying that there is no secret to his success—just hard work.

Perhaps, he is right.

But you can’t argue that that he has an aptitude for spotting opportunities.

Working at a tobacco factory, he was inspired to set out on his own. Learning enough from his stint at the factory, he set up his own rival business: Fortune Tobacco. That firm took off; and with it, so did his companies.

By the time he established his Hope brand of cigarettes, he was en route to becoming the industry leader. Quite fitting it certainly seemed: his Fortune, built on Hope.

Dr.Tan once had to leave his country of birth in search of a better life. Decades after, he has shown that immigrants – despite odds stacked against them – can rise to success. And make a difference in the life of others, contributing to the betterment of society at the same time.

His story surely remains an inspiration to many Filipino emigrants now seeking their own fortunes overseas.


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