Henry Sy, Sr., country’s richest man and the founder of the largest chain of shopping malls in the Philippines, passed away on Saturday morning, Jan. 19. He was 94 years old.
“It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the peaceful passing of our beloved Chairman Emeritus, founder and Tatang, Mr. Henry Sy, Sr. this morning,” SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) said in a statement.
Mr. Sy was the chairman emeritus of SMIC, SM Prime Holdings, Inc., and BDO Unibank, Inc. at the time of his death.
He was consistently named as the Philippines’ richest man by Forbes magazine since 2008, with his wealth estimated at $18.3 billion as of September 2018.
“We are truly grateful for the outpouring of sympathy on the passing of our father, Henry Sy, Sr.,” a family representative said in a separate message, requesting the public for privacy while they “reflect and finalize arrangements.”
Mr. Sy was born in Xiamen, China in November 1924, where he would stay and attend school until he was 12 years old. In 1936, he followed his father to the Philippines, where he operated a store that sold rice, sardines, and soap.
Misfortune however struck when their store burned down during World War II. His father was then forced to return to China, but Mr. Sy decided to stay in the Philippines.
Mr. Sy started selling surplus G.I. boots of US soldiers after the war. Having saved up enough money from this venture, he opened a shoe store named ShoeMart in Marikina in 1958. He started with six shoe stores, then diversified into clothing and soft goods.
He then went into real estate development through Multi-Realty Development Corp. in 1974, diversifying his interests into high-rise developments initially in prime lots in Makati City.
In 1976, Mr. Sy acquired Acme Savings Bank, which would be renamed as Banco de Oro and is now currently known as BDO Unibank, Inc.
Mr. Sy opened his first supermall called SM North EDSA in Quezon City in 1985. More malls would follow in the 1990s, namely SM City Sta. Mesa, SM Megamall, and SM City Cebu. SM Prime went public in 1994 and raised around P6 billion, paving the way for the company’s rapid expansion. It currently has 72 malls in the country, plus seven in China.
From these humble beginnings, the Sy family has grown SM Prime and SMIC to be the only two companies in the country to have reached the trillion-peso mark in terms of market capitalization.
BDO is also the largest bank in the country in asset terms at P2.79 trillion.
Aside from property, banking, and retail, the Sy group also has interests in leisure through Belle Corp., logistics through 2GO Group, Inc., and mining through Atlas Consolidated Mining & Development Corp.
The SM Group of Companies is now being run by his children, namely Teresita, Elizabeth, Henry Jr., Hans, Herbert, and Harley.
Details of his wake have yet to be disclosed.