Philippine business lost one of its most recognizable figures at 10:45 P.M. last night as Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco passed away at the age of 85.
Inarguably one of the country’s greatest industrialists as well as a political kingmaker, Cojuangco has been battling through a handful of diseases, including lung cancer and a heart problem, and had a kidney transplant back in 2013.
Born on June 10, 1935 in Paniqui, Tarlac, the tycoon was the eldest among the children of Eduardo C. Cojuangco Sr., and Josephine B. Murphy. Danding studied both at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and De La Salle University, and was the chief patron of the latter’s men’s basketball program until last year. He is married to Soledad Oppen-Cojuangco, with whom he has four children: Margarita Cojuangco Barrera, Luisa Cojuangco-Cruz, Carlos Cojuangco, and Marcos Cojuangco.
In 1983, Danding bought San Miguel Corporation from Andy Soriano, and, with Ramon Ang, transformed it into one of the largest and most diversified conglomerates. This success does not just reverberate in the country, but also in Southeast Asia, with stakes in food, beverages, food, packaging, oil refining, infrastructure, utilities, and, of course, beer. A Forbes profile on the businessman pegs his real-time estimated worth at USD 1.1 billion. He also owns three basketball teams in the Philippine Basketball Association: San Miguel Beermen, Barangay Ginebra, and Star Hotshots. Danding also held the rank of colonel in the Philippine Air Force.
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Despite these successes, it is Cojuangco’s political life that is a lot more colorful. He was regarded as a crony of former President Ferdinand Marcos, which is somewhat ironic given that he is the cousin of former President and Marcos successor Corazon Aquino. Danding was also accused by Government prosecutors of illegally amassing his fortune during the late dictator’s years in office. But he was not convicted nor sent to jail. In 1992, he ran for president, and was within striking distance from second-placer Miriam Defensor Santiago and eventual winner Fidel Ramos. He was chairman emeritus of the National People’s Coalition party, which has been fielding candidates in both local and national races since the 1990s. Danding mulled over another stab at the Presidency in the 2004 elections, but withdrew.
According to a member of the Cojuangco family, they have decided on a private wake as of the moment. This will be open only to immediate members. The late businessman’s body was immediately cremated following his wish not to have a viewing.