Channel NewsAsia Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award recipient John Gokongwei Jr (right) with son Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei, proudly took delivery of one of Cebu Pacific's brand-new Airbus A330 aircraft last September 12, 2013.
Business leader John Gokongwei, Jr has been conferred the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award by Channel NewsAsia (CNA) for his contribution to the growth of Philippine industry and the Asian economy. Gokongwei is the first Filipino to receive that recognition from the Asian TV News channel.
In ceremonies at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore on February 25, the entrepreneur-turned-industrialist and founder of one of the country's largest conglomerates became the fourth recipient of the prestigious award given previously to business leaders from India, Thailand and Indonesia.
During his dialogue with CNA's Timothy Go, Gokongwei said that he never imagined he would one day be one of the wealthiest men in the country. "I knew I could make it in Cebu but I never thought I could make it in Manila," he said.
"Everything was done in accordance to what is right. It takes time and devotion… you rely on your family for help and if they're a dedicated group, they will help you. And that's what happened to me."
To businessmen, he gave this advice: "Do what is right… do it with honesty and vigor. Be creative – that's important. Don't follow what other people are doing."
The Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award honors a business person whose success serves as an inspiration to others and whose achievements are iconic to the success of the Asian region, according to CNA, the broadcasting arm of MediaCorp of Singapore.
The awards ceremony, attended by some 250 guests that included business and industry leaders, coincided with the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the English language Asian TV news channel.
Gokongwei took his first steps in entrepreneurship at age 15 in the family's hometown in Cebu in the central Philippines where he engaged in a buy-and-sell operation using a bicycle.
From these humble beginnings, he grew his fortunes on hard work and frugality while taking calculated risks and embracing competition. Today, Gokongwei's business empire includes JG Summit Holdings, Inc. (JGSHI), Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. (RRHI), Universal Robina Corporation (URC), Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) and Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC), with a combined market cap of over USD18 billion.
The 87-year-old self-made billionaire now sits as Chairman Emeritus of JGSHI, the family's flagship that was chosen by Forbes as among Asia's Fab 50 best publicly-traded companies in 2011 and 2012. When he turned 80, Gokongwei donated half his shares in JGSHI to the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF), which in turn, has given significant endowments to various educational institutions in the Philippines.
JG Summit has interests in food and beverage, real estate and hotel, airlines, banking, power, telecommunications, petrochemicals, retail and publishing. The conglomerate earned a net profit of P13.3 billion as of end-September 2013.
The tycoon received a Master's degree in Business Administration from the De La Salle University, Manila, an Honorary Doctorate degree in Humanities from the Ateneo de Manila University and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Science in Business and Enterprise Development from the University of San Carlos in Cebu. He also attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.
His wealth and influence notwithstanding, Gokongwei said in one interview that he is proud of his family first and his business only second. He has five daughters and a son who are all involved in running their conglomerate. His son Lance is president and chief operating officer of JGSHI, while his brother James Go is the conglomerate's chairman and chief executive officer.
Channel NewsAsia's Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award recipient John L. Gokongwei, Jr. (left) with MediaCorp CEO Shaun Seow.