Business tycoon Roberto Ongpin, one of Philippines' richest, dies at 86


Posted at Feb 05 2023 10:41 AM | Updated as of Feb 05 2023 08:52 PM

Bobby Ongpin. Handout
Bobby Ongpin. Handout

MANILA (UPDATED) — Business tycoon Roberto Ongpin has passed away, his nephew Apa confirmed on Sunday. He was 86.

Ongpin died in his sleep Saturday night, Feb. 4, in Balesin, the exclusive island resort he built as part of a wide portfolio of investments in real estate and gaming.

He is survived by his wife, Monica Arellano, his children Stephen, Anna, Michelle, and Julian, and four grandchildren, "two of whom he got to play with before he went to sleep last night," according to Apa.

Ongpin's remains will be brought to Manila, with his immediate family set to make an official announcement once the wake details have been finalized, his nephew said in a statement to ABS-CBN News.

Ongpin had long been regarded as one of the Philippines' wealthiest businessmen. In 2022, Forbes Magazine named Ongpin as the 23rd richest Filipino with a net worth of $830 million (P44.5 billion).

Within showbiz circles, he was known as the owner of Balesin, whose sections mimicked other international destinations such as Mykonos, St. Tropez, and Phuket. In 2015, it was the venue of the much-talked-about wedding of actress Heart Evangelista and Sen. Francis Escudero.

During the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., Ongpin was the Minister of Commerce and Industry, which would later become the Department of Trade and Industry.

Because of his role in the Marcos Sr. administration, he would later be tagged as a Marcos "crony," a label he had resented.

"All of the entire time I was in the Cabinet was very difficult. I was under attack from a lot of sectors, principally his cronies. That's why I resent being called a crony!" Ongpin said in a rare ANC interview in 2011.

He also said that he had already amassed most of his wealth before his appointment as trade minister in the 1970s.

During the early days of the Duterte administration, Ongpin resigned as chairman and director of PhilWeb, an online gambling operator that he founded.

His resignation came a day after former President Rodrigo Duterte singled out Ongpin in his speech vowing to "destroy" oligarchs.

That same year, Ongpin was also fighting a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling that found him guilty of insider trading, stemming from his 2009 purchase of Philex Mining Corp. shares.

The SEC had slapped Ongpin with a P174-million fine and effectively barred him from holding positions in listed companies. 

"I thought that the persecution under the Aquino administration had ended but apparently, the remaining minions of the past administration are still determined to get me," Ongpin had said.

—With reports from Warren de Guzman and Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News


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