The Emperador’s Son

May 5, 2019

A toast through generations

MANILA, Philippines — One early evening in February, Kevin Tan steps out of a sleek dark blue sedan and strides purposefully toward the majestic Arco de Emperador in Megaworld’s Arcovia City township along C-5 in Pasig City.

Kevin, the eldest son of tycoon Dr. Andrew Tan, is his usual dapper self. But he’s not heading to a party or to have a good time with his barkada. He is about to lead the unveiling of the arch, the newest addition to one of Megaworld’s latest townships.

He delivers a speech, cuts the ribbon and offers a toast to the crowd that had gathered. He smiles for the klieg lights and the cameras, exchanges pleasantries with the guests, dishes out a few lines for persistent journalists and then rushes off to another engagement.

The young Tan no doubt juggles his time between his duties as chief executive officer of Alliance Global Group Inc., the conglomerate his father founded, and as husband to Michelle and a doting dad to their two children. He has taken on practically all public duties related to the group, as his father has chosen to steer clear of the spotlight.

Andrew and Kevin Tan with top officials of Megaworld.

Kevin – KLT as he is called by his staff – is only 39 years old, among the youngest in the business. As the eldest son of a Forbes listed billionaire, the young heir can just chill, do as he pleases and just LOI – live on inheritance.

But KLT has chosen to do the opposite. He has risen to the occasion after his father handed the reins of the business over to him in June 2018 and appointed him CEO of Alliance Global, a position the elder Tan held concurrently as chairman since 2006.

No doubt, the young tycoon devotes his time to implementing his father’s vision. It’s no mean feat. After all, his father’s conglomerate is so diverse and growing it further is not without challenges.

“My father’s vision is not just to sell a product or, say, one residential unit. It’s really to sell a lifestyle to ordinary Filipinos,” Kevin tells STARweek during a recent press conference of Megaworld. ?Andrew Tan indeed is known for his sprawling empire that is one of the fastest growing conglomerates in the country. His Philippine Stock Exchange-listed Alliance Global Group Inc. builds condominiums and BPO offices through Megaworld Corp; operates hotels and casinos through Travellers International; runs the McDonald’s fast food chain in the Philippines through Golden Arches Development Corp. and owns the world’s biggest brandy company, Emperador Inc.

Andrew Tan: The Visionary

Founder Andrew Tan returned to his birthplace in Quanzhou, China for the groundbreaking of Megaworld’s One Nanyang project.

Tan’s success of course did not happen overnight, but his path to success was relatively shorter than other taipans who started their businesses after the Second World War.

Still, it was definitely not an easy climb up the ladder of success.

Tan had a dream which was to put up his own liquor brand and it all started one day in 1974 when his father, a factory worker, opened a bottle of Fundador – tall, gleaming and imported from Spain.

The taipan, a young man at the time, knew the occasion was very special because a bottle of Fundador was quite a luxury for their family.

His parents were poor immigrants from Fujian, China. Home was a cramped 20-square-meter apartment in the maze-like district of Binondo in chaotic downtown Manila.

Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art.

But for his father, the occasion was worthy enough to celebrate with an expensive bottle of brandy. Tan, after all, had just graduated from the University of the East where he finished Business Administration with honors.

He could not forget that moment and right then and there promised himself that he would make it big in this world, have his own brandy company as big as Fundador and be able to open a bottle anytime he wanted.

In 1980, he set up Consolidated Distillers Inc. which brought to the market Andy Player Whisky.

However, through the years and despite popular movie actor Eddie Garcia as endorser, it was unable to compete with the leading brand at the time, Destileria Limtuaco’s White Castle Whisky.

The price of the raw material for whisky was just too high and Tan’s company could not compete.

Years later, he decided to set up Emperador Inc., best known for its Emperador Brandy, focusing on another segment of the spirits market instead of the very competitive whisky industry.

Today, Emperador is the world’s biggest liquor company. It operates an integrated business of manufacturing, bottling and distributing distilled spirits and other alcoholic beverages.

Mactan Newtown in Cebu.

Then in 1989, he founded Megaworld which pioneered affordable condominiums.

Kevin says his father wanted to give Filipinos the chance to buy a condominium, which was luxury then.

Luxury Within Reach?

Andrew Tan might well be called the tycoon who put luxury within the Filipino’s reach.

It was perhaps that bottle of Fundador his father gave him for his graduation in 1974 that helped shape his dream and vision – to give ordinary people a lifestyle experience that they can enjoy.

Tan pioneered the creation of townships all over the country. These mixed-used spaces combine work, play and home, radically changing the property development landscape in the Philippines.

“In the last 30 years Megaworld has been a pioneer of many, many things. We started actually as a condominium developer. It was a time when Metro Manila was reeling from quite a lot of crises,” Kevin tells STARweek.

Iloilo Business Park and Capital Town in Pampanga.

“My father’s vision was to create products that are attainable. So we were the first to launch these condos with affordable payment terms and smaller cuts. We revolutionized condo-living in this country,” Kevin says.

But Tan did not stop at that.

Kevin says his father wanted to bring condo living beyond Metro Manila to other parts of the country and to entice overseas Filipinos to put their hard-earned money into fruitful and sound investments.

“We were the first developer who started selling outside Metro Manila and outside the Philippines. We saw a huge, huge growing Filipino population outside the Philippines,” Kevin relates. “Now, we have offices in 60 cities around the world.”

Megaworld was also the first to provide offices for the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry.

Today, the company is the country’s biggest office landlord and continues to grow its office footprint. Megaworld’s rental business is comprised of office and commercial leasing. Other segments grew as well – from its malls, to hotels (they have eight hotels in their sprawling Resorts World complex across the Ninoy Aquino International Airport), to residential units.

Last year, the property giant grew its net income 17 percent to P15.2 billion, from P13 billion a year ago.

Kevin says the company is reaping the fruits of its expansion throughout the country, addressing the continuing growth in the demand for residential units as well as office and commercial spaces in their various townships across the country.

Pioneering Townships

Indeed, part of Tan’s vision was to enable people to live where they work and live where everything is just within reach.

“This model makes every aspect of our business viable and expandable, and we continue to spot opportunities where we can further grow and innovate our offerings,” Kevin says.

Thus, over the last 30 years, the Megaworld Group has brought its township developments out of the Metro Manila area to different regions of the Philippines – in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

“The bigger vision is to really put all these things – residential, office and retail – together in township developments where everything is self-sufficient,” Kevin reiterates.

The company now has 24 townships across the country and hopes to bring this to 30 in the next few years.

“We are where we want to be,” Kevin says, with justifiable pride.

And where they want to be all started with one man’s vision conceived over his father’s prized bottle of brandy, and it is sweet success indeed that such vision is now being carried on by his son.

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