World’s ‘Brandy King’ Andrew Tan on his childhood dream, how to build a global business & listing Emperador Inc. in Singapore

July 31, 2022

Emperador Inc. founder and chairman Dr. Andrew Tan is a self-made entrepreneur who is now Brandy King, the biggest brandy producer in the world.

SINGAPORE — International media and Singapore-based The Straits Times have described self-made real estate and liquor billionaire Dr. Andrew Tan’s Emperador Inc. as “the world’s largest brandy maker” and the Philippines’ biggest liquor producer in their news reports on the global spirit conglomerate’s historic, successful secondary listing on the Main Board of the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited (SGX-ST) last July 14. This is the first time that a Philippine-listed firm was able to list on the prestigious SGX.

Andrew Tan’s Emperador Inc. has indeed become the world’s biggest brandy firm in terms of volume produced every year, with 23.6 million cases produced in 2020 according to UK-based industry magazine Drinks International. He has also built Emperador into a multinational by masterfully acquiring some of the world’s most famous and prestigious foreign liquor companies: purchasing in 2014 the world’s fifth biggest Scotch whisky manufacturer by volume, Whyte & Mackay, for £430 million British pounds (P31 billion); buying in 2015 Spain’s Bodegas Fundador which is producer of the world’s No. 1 biggest brandy brand Fundador; buying in 2017 Mexico’s Casa Pedro Domecq which owns three major Mexican brandy brands — Presidente, Don Pedro and Aztec de Oro (2020 AC Nielsen statistics show that Casa Pedro Domecq has already conquered 57 percent of the whole brandy market of Mexico).

Emperador now owns three of the world’s top 20 bestselling single malts, some among the oldest and most prestigious aged single malt whisky brands from Scottish distilleries like Dalmore, Jura and Tamnavulin. The Dalmore is a famous British luxury brand.

The Dalmore has also become the fastest-growing single malt in the last two years, and from 2018 to 2020 according to the 2021 IWSR Global Database. In October last year, The Dalmore’s Decades No. 6 Collection sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for a record-setting US$1,124,000, making it the most expensive whisky lot ever sold by the auction house in Asia.

Emperador Inc. director Kevin L. Tan being interviewed by the Philippine media after the successful Singapore Exchange listing ceremony, as he expressed optimism on global expan-sion prospects.

Among those present at the July 14 Singapore listing were Alliance Global Group and Emperador Inc. founder Dr. Tan and his wife Katherine Lim Tan, Singapore Ambassador to Manila Gerard Ho Wei Hong who flew in to witness the auspicious occasion as a special guest, Singapore Exchange chief executive officer Loh Boon Chye (who told this writer that Andrew Tan is “an impressive and outstanding entrepreneur, very passionate about his business and he’s also very engaging”), Alliance Global Group CEO Kevin Tan and wife Michelle See Tan, Whyte & Mackay CEO Bryan Donaghey (who just flew in to attend the occasion and on the same night flew back to Glasgow, Scotland), Andrew Tan’s youngest son Dexter Tan and wife Kelsey Cheng Tan, Dalmore whisky expert George Schulze (German/Spanish/Filipino mestizo whose maternal grandfather was the late 1950s top actor Armando Goyena) and many other dignitaries.

This first-ever secondary listing of a Philippine Stock Exchange-listed firm in Singapore marks the latest step in Emperador’s bold long-range plans for future international growth, especially in the world’s two biggest and richest consumer markets: China and the US.

Dr. Tan didn’t deliver any speech at the listing ceremony; he just smiled and clapped during the formal ceremony. He also gave an “ang-pao” red envelope to the head of the traditional Lion Dance troupe after their performance to usher in good luck and then presided over the striking of the ceremonial gong to commence stock trading. The only two persons who gave speeches were the Singapore Exchange CEO and Emperador’s Whyte & Mackay CEO.

After the ceremony, Tan gave a few words to the international, Philippine and Singapore media: “We are very grateful for this moment. It’s truly a milestone for Emperador and it reinforced the globalization of Emperador. Thank you!”

Here is our exclusive interview with Emperador Inc. chairman Dr. Andrew Tan:

Philippine STAR: Emperador Inc. has now become a multinational business and you have many liquor brands and products across different continents. what are your top five favorites and why?

Andrew Tan: Here are my personal favorites:

1. Emperador. World’s largest brandy brand. This is where it all started.

2. Fundador. It is an inspiration, with 300 years of heritage. Visited by kings and royalties. A great piece of history and business.

3. The Dalmore. A luxury brand. The pride of selling one of the most luxurious brands.

4. Jura. UK’s No.1 single malt Scotch whisky. The heart of a community on the Isle of Jura.

5. Harvey’s Bristol Cream. A Royal Warrant Holder. Served at Buckingham Palace.

At the Emperador Inc. listing at Singapore Exchange, this was one of the bottles of The Dalmore scotch whisky displayed at SGX during the ceremony.

Years ago you told me that your classmates all had either a grocery shop or hardware shop, and that you’re from a humble immigrant family. When you were young, did you imagine or envision that you would someday own a global or multinational business? What was your earliest childhood or youthful ambition?

When I was young, my dream was to be a good provider for my family.

To own a global company is a privilege. I personally consider it as the country’s pride — to lead a Philippine company making it in the international market.

Did I plan or envision to own a global company? There are many things in life that come as a pleasant surprise. Any successful person should be humbled by the opportunity and blessing provided from above.

There were already many other liquor companies in the Philippines and in Asia when you started your firm years ago. How did you pull away and make it a global giant?

I can say that I am passionate about the business. Giving it all my heart and 110 percent of my effort. I am personally involved in many of the product introductions in the Philippine market: from product development to packaging design. I find enjoyment in creating things that people can enjoy, like a bottle of good brandy. It’s nice to see the company grow as it has over the years.

* * *

The Singapore Exchange, or SGX, is Asia’s most international, multi-asset stock exchange and one with the highest regulatory standards. Foreign bankers told me that this secondary listing raises the international credibility and prestige of Emperador Inc. among investors. They also said multinational financial hub Singapore has also become the second home of Andrew Tan.

Dr. Tan’s eldest son and heir apparent Kevin Tan said: “This is just the start for us, this platform will allow us to be known globally. Of course, this Singapore listing allows us to continue our growth globally. We have our eyes already set on certain things, like Asia. China is a very big market for us, and of course we do want to complete our portfolio in other categories. We hope to be able to conquer the world of single malt Spanish brandy.”

Singapore Ambassador Gerald Ho Wei Hong said to this writer: “I drink anything that’s tasty; I do drink The Dalmore. I think Andrew Tan is a very dynamic businessman, he invested in Emperador and grew his business by many folds.”

Bryan Donaghey said: “I first met Dr. Andrew Tan in 2013 when I was in Whyte & Mackay and we were running the sales process of the company. Dr. Tan was one of the potential buyers. I find him to be so knowledgeable about Scotch, about brandy, and so passionate about liquor. He is very long-term in his thinking with long-term goals and long-term commitment; he’s absolutely brought that to Whyte & Mackay. You in the Philippines should be proud of such a global company as Emperador Inc., which is operating internationally, and of this secondary listing on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The secondary listing of Emperador on the SGX-ST today marks the start of the next chapter in our growth. We are proud to have built a leading global spirits company, and we are committed to being a driving force in brandy and whisky.”

An inspiring “rags-to-riches” entrepreneur, Tan founded Emperador in 1979 as his first business even before venturing into real estate success with Megaworld, later McDonald’s Philippines, Newport World Resorts (formerly Resorts World Manila) and other enterprises.

When asked to give a message to all whisky, brandy and other liquor drinkers, Kevin Tan smiled and shared this message: “Drink to have fun, not to be drunk.”

From Kevin Tan’s Facebook: Andrew with wife Katherine, Kevin with wife Michelle attending the special dinner hosted for Singapore’s Who’s Who at KOMA in Marina Bay Sands, just a few days before the SGX listing.

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