On this day, July 17 in the year 1934, one of the most famous businessmen in the Philippines was born in Fujian, China. His name is Lucio Tan, the man who built a fortune in tobacco, banking, beer, and air transportation. With a net worth of $2.1 billion as of this month, 2020, he is the 6th richest Filipino, according to forbes.com.
When he was a small boy, Lucio Tan immigrated to the Philippines with his parents. He finished chemical engineering from the Far Eastern University in Manila. As a student, he worked part-time in a cigarette factory “mopping floors” as forbes.com would describe it. After graduation, he became a partner in a cornstarch factory then in a radio manufacturing firm. Both companies were not successful but the failure only emboldened him. In 1960, he set up a chemical trading company and six years after, he put up Fortune Tobacco which would eventually become the biggest cigarette manufacturer in the Philippines. During those years, he became a friend of Ferdinand Marcos.
When Marcos became president and later dictator, Lucio Tan’s business became an empire. He was able to purchase a failing bank for a pittance and built it into one of the biggest banks in the country. He was also given a license to produce beer to become the second manufacturer of the beverage in the Philippines. Later, he added liquor production when he purchased Tanduay distillery.
When Marcos was overthrown, several cases were brought against Lucio Tan with allegations that he was a dummy of the former president. He stood his ground and none of the cases were proven in court.
In 1990, Lucio Tan entered the education sector when he purchased the University of the east, one of the biggest educational institutions of the country. Subsequently, he gained control of the national flag carrier, Philippine Airlines. When the Philippine National Bank was privatized, he also become the controlling shareholder and later merged it with his Allied Bank. Meanwhile, his Fortune Tobacco Company merged with Philip Morris. In 2012, he formed LT Group, Inc. as a holding company with interests in beer, banking, airline, property, and sugar refining. It is now a publicly listed in the Philippine stock exchange.
Lucio married twice, first to Carmen and then to Letty. His 6 children namely Lucio Tan, Jr., Timmy Tan, Michael Tan and Vivien Tan are now taking charge of the business.