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Cebuano business magnate John Gokongwei, 93

The country’s third richest man, John Robinson L. Gokongwei, Jr., has passed away.

He was 93.

Esquire magazine, one of the publications of Gokongwei-owned Summit Publishing Company Inc., reported that Lance Gokongwei, John’s only son, sent the following text message:

"Our beloved husband, father and grandfather John Gokongwei, Jr. passed away peacefully 11:41 p.m., November 9th, at the Manila Doctor's Hospital surrounded by his loved ones. Please pray for the repose of his soul. Details of his wake to follow. Rest In Peace, Mr. John."

Gokongwei, a great grandson of Chinese immigrant Pedro Lee Gotiaoco, founded the conglomerate J.G. Summit Holdings Inc.

He retired when he turned 90 in 2016 and was succeeded by Lance. He remained chairman emeritus until his death.

Forbes Magazine listed him as the third richest man in the Philippines in 2019, with a real-time net worth of $5.8 billion as of November 9, 2019.

Gokongwei was orphaned at 13 and, as the eldest of six children, had to sell peanuts, soap, thread and candles to support his family.

He later engaged in trading, bringing rubber tires, textiles and used clothing (ukay-ukay) to Manila.

As his trading business improved, he engaged in corn starch production and began to build what is now JG Summit, a highly diversified conglomerate based in Manila.

JG Summit is the parent company of Cebu Pacific Air, food and beverage giant Universal Robina Corporation, property developer Robinsons Land Corporation, and retail giant Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. (Robinsons Malls).

It is also engaged in tourism through Summit and Go hotels, petrochemicals through JG Summit Petrochemical Corporation, and publishing through Summit Media.

It has interests in telecommunications (PLDT) and power (Manila Electric Co. and Global Business Power Corp.) as well as investments overseas.

Gokongwei was also a philanthropist, having established the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation together with his brothers Johnson, Henry and James.

The foundation focuses on providing student scholarships and collaborating with leading educational institutions.

Gokongwei was a great grandson of Gotiaoco, one of Cebu’s richest businessmen in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Gotiaco had three sons and the eldest, Go Chiong Ut, was Gokongwei’s grandfather.

Gotiaoco’s second son was Manuel Gotianuy, the father of University of Cebu president Augusto W. Go.

Gotiaoco also had a daughter, Modesta Singson Gaisano, who was the matriarch of the Gaisano clan.

Gokongwei finished his education at the University of San Carlos. In January 2004, the university cited him for his “business spirit and entrepreneurship”, and conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Science in Business and Enterprise Development, Honoris Causa.

His wake is on Monday, November 11, to Thursday, November 14, at Heritage Park in Taguig City, Metro Manila, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Funeral mass will be at 8 a.m. Friday, November 15.

(Ventures Cebu)

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