Retail tycoon Henry Sy Sr passes away

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 19 2019 10:44 AM | Updated as of Jan 19 2019 08:08 PM

MANILA (6th UPDATE)—Retail tycoon Henry Sy Sr. has passed away, ABS-CBN News confirmed Saturday. He was 94.

"With deep sadness, I would like to inform the group that our beloved Chairman Tatang, Mr. Henry Sy Sr, passed away peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning. Please pray for the eternal repose of his soul," Steven Tan, SM Supermalls COO, said in a statement.

Sy's family sought privacy as they thanked those who have extended their condolences.

"We are truly grateful for the outpouring of sympathy on the passing of our father, Henry Sy Sr. May we respectfully ask for privacy today to give the family time to reflect and to finalize arrangements," the Sy family said in a statement.

The public viewing of Sy Sr.'s remains is scheduled from January 20 to 23 at the Heritage chapels, while interment is on Thursday, January 24, his son Hans said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the family said that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the late patriarch's beloved scholarship program through the SM Foundation, Inc.

Sy Sr., founder of the SM group, was named by Forbes as the country's richest man with an estimated net worth of $19 billion.

Before his demise, Sy Sr. tapped a long-time associate, Jose Sio, to succeed him as chairman of SM Investments, while his eldest daughter Teresita Sy-Coson and son Henry Sy Jr remain as co-vice chairpersons at SM Investments, where Harley Sy is also executive director.

'A pair of footwear for every Filipino'

The Chinese-born Sy started his business in 1958 with a Shoemart footwear shop in downtown Manila.

"That’s one of Mr. Sy’s dreams. He stated years before that he wanted to sell a pair of footwear to every Filipino," SM Retail senior vice president for shoes and bags Eugene Saw earlier told ABS-CBN News.

Sy's humble footwear shops in Rizal Avenue and Carriedo Street in Manila eventually branched out into bigger retail shops in Makati and in Cubao, Quezon City, two of the country's busiest districts in the 1960s.

In two decades, Sy managed to change the shopping landscape in the Philippines when he put up the 125,000-sqm SM North EDSA in 1985.

By the turn of the century, Sy's shoe shop had evolved into a multi-sector empire that had stakes in banking and real estate.

The SM Group now includes BDO Unibank, the country's largest lender, condominium builder SM Development Corp. and Belle Corp., which has a stake in the billion-dollar City of Dreams casino resort.

Sy is among Filipino-Chinese tycoons with businesses expanding in China, with 7 malls in the mainland.

Amid such expansion, Sy stayed true to his "first love" and opened smaller community malls in rural areas in the Philippines.

"He got busy with other businesses, but his true love, his true passion is in the shoe business," Saw said.

Philippines' richest was also among Asia's most generous

In 2013, the SM Group chief was named by Forbes Asia as one of the region's top philanthropists for giving nearly $120 million to schools and foundations.

At the time, Sy gave $7 million to the De La Salle University to build an eco-friendly building for the school, and donated $112 million to an un-named foundation, Forbes Asia said.

Sy made it to the top because he "does not stop thinking," Sio, one of the tycoon's most trusted lieutenants, earlier told ABS-CBN News.

"He does not stop thinking. He looks at the long term. He was number one in retail but he was telling me, watch me, (this) bank will be number one," said Sio, recalling how Sy planned the success of BDO Unibank.

"His drive in life, his vision. I said to myself, this (man) will be big," he said.