STI, Benitez family end dispute amicably

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The Benitez family and the STI Group led by Eusebio Tanco have parted ways after arriving at an amicable settlement, with the former agreeing to cede its properties to the latter to settle its indebtedness.

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In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, STI Education Systems Holdings Inc. said it is breaking up with the Benitez family, owner of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), which used to be one of the country’s top finishing schools.

Under the terms of their settlement, the Benitez family, through its corporate vehicle Unlad Resources Development Corp., will transfer its Quezon City and Davao properties, where it currently operates Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (Jasms), to STI.

The JASMS campus along EDSA in Quezon City will remain until the end of school year of 2017, after which it will move to another location.

Earlier, STI signed an agreement with Ayala Land Inc. to develop the property, which among others will have a shopping mall and a school. It is still not clear, however, whether the deal will continue as a result of the conflict between STI and the Benitez family.

The PWU, meanwhile, will retain its Manila campus along Taft Avenue and Indiana Street in Manila.

STI representatives will have to resign from the PWU Board of Trustees, as the school will remain under the control of the Benitez family.

PWU President Francisco Benitez said the settlement is “a mandate to rebuild PWU and JASMS while remaining true to the educational legacy of our founders.”

“Talks are under way to open new campuses outside Metro Manila in time for PWU’s centennial celebration in 2019,” he added.

The relationship between the two turned sour after STI in December 2014 declared PWU in default of its debt with the publicly-listed company in the amount of almost P1 billion and demanded payment of its loans just seven days from receipt of such a notice.

The Benitez group then offered to settle the debt, but only up to P644 million, which the family said was the amount it actually owed to the Tanco group.

STI, however, rejected the proposal, with STI president Monico Jacob saying it was an “empty offer.”

STI then moved for the foreclosure of all assets owned by Unlad, which were all schools, in Quezon City, Manila and Davao, as payment of the debts of the Benitez family.

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