'Struck by lightning,’ Ongpin to sell PhilWeb stake

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2016 05:18 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2016 06:42 PM

MANILA – (UPDATE) “Struck by lightning” after President Rodrigo Duterte branded him as an oligarch who must be destroyed, tycoon Roberto Ongpin said on Wednesday he would auction off his entire stake in PhilWeb Corp.

Ongpin said he was calling for an “open auction” of his 771,749,896 shares, a 53.76-percent stake in the online casino software provider, to protect around 5,000 “bystanders” who could lose their jobs should the company fold up.

PhilWeb will suspend all e-games operations from 11:59 p.m. Wednesday after the state gambling regulator refused to extend its license, according to company president Dennis Valdes. Trading of its shares were suspended also on Wednesday.

“Exactly one week ago, on August 3rd, I was struck by lightning and named as an oligarch that must be destroyed. The lightning bolt was obviously meant for me and me alone,” Ongpin said in a shareholders’ meeting.

READ: Duterte singles out Ongpin in anti-oligarchy pitch

“I am doing this auction so that I will be totally out of the picture and the innocent bystanders such as the shareholders, the employees of PhilWeb, the e-games, may be able to save their jobs,” he said.

Pagcor gets 40.2 percent of gross revenue from e-games, while PhilWeb gets 29.8 percent. Everyday, the company remits P6 million to Pagcor. Remittances totaled P2.1 billion last year and was projected to reach P2.5 billion this year, Valdes said.

Asked why Duterte singled him out, Ongpin said: “I’m totally mystified by why I was hit by this lightning. I have never met the President. I have never as far as I know stepped on any toes of anyone that are his close associates.”

Ongpin said he would accept bids via e-mail until Wednesday next week and would sell his shares to the highest bidder.

The winning bidder will have the option to withdraw his or her offer should the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. fail to issue a new license by the end of the month.

“It’s a tough call. Your whole life’s worth can be obliterated by that one comment. I have no clue honestly why he called me an oligarch and I need to be destroyed," Ongpin said.

Ongpin said some of his top executives had suffered from hypertension since Duterte singled him out with one scheduled for heart surgery.

“I don’t know why I still can smile. Most people who are hit by lightning fall away and die," he said.

Asked if he was worried about his other businesses, Ongpin said: "Anytime he mentions a person by name, obviously it is something that has to be of concern. I just can’t say oh no forget it."