Sy in 2017
Sy Chi Sieng (Shi Zhicheng)
October 15, 1924
|Died||January 19, 2019 (aged 94)|
|Education||Far Eastern University|
Chiang Kai Shek College
|Known for||Founder of SM Investments|
|Net worth||US$18.3 billion (September 2018)|
Henry Tan Chi Sieng Sy Sr. (Chinese: 施至成; pinyin: Shī Zhìchéng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Si Chì-sêng; October 15, 1924 – January 19, 2019) was a Chinese Filipino business magnate and philanthropist known for his involvement in the Philippines' retail industry.
Born in Fujian, he moved with his family to the Philippines at age 12. While his family returned to China, he stayed behind and founded ShoeMart, a small Manilla shoe store, in 1958. Over the decades he developed ShoeMart into SM Investments, one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, including 77 SM malls in the Philippines and China, 62 department stores, 56 supermarkets and over 200 grocery stores. SM also owns Banco de Oro, the second-largest bank in the Philippines, and real estate holdings/
For eleven straight years until his death, Sy was named by Forbes as the richest person in the Philippines. Upon his death on January 19, 2019, his estimated net worth amounted to US$19 billion, making him the 53rd-richest person in the world.
Early life and education
Henry Sy (also known as Shi Zhicheng) was born in Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian in the Republic of China, on October 15, 1924. At age 12, he and his family moved to the Philippines, where his father set up a shop that sold various household items. At his father's store, Sy helped his father sell rice, sardines and other merchandise. Following World War II, the store got obliterated along with the rest of Manila. His family decided to return to China, but Sy stayed in the Philippines where he completed his secondary education at an institution now known as the Chiang Kai Shek College and earned his Associate of Arts degree in commercial studies at Far Eastern University in 1950. While studying in school, he also learned how to speak in English and Filipino.
In his twenties, Henry Sy became a store manager working for an American business involved in the local shoe industry in the Philippines; he opened his first sole-proprietorship store in Quiapo, Manila in 1948. He opened at least three shoe stores in the Carriedo area which was then known for its heavy pedestrian traffic. His decision to sell shoes was due to the losses his family experienced in World War II thinking that everyone would need shoes following the aftermath of the war.
He sold surplus G.I. boots and saved finances before he established ShoeMart in 1958, his own small shoe store in Quiapo, that marked the beginning of SM Prime. He later encountered difficulties in sourcing shoes locally and decided to import shoes from outside the country.
In November 1972, he opened SM Quiapo, SM's first stand alone department store, and entrusted his 22-year-old daughter Teresita to run the store. On November 8, 1985, he established his first SM Supermall, SM City North EDSA. In the early 1990s, SM started opening more shopping malls with the setting up of two malls in Metro Manila and a solitary mall in Cebu City. SM Prime Holdings was incorporated in 1994 and went public.
Sy was named "Richest Man of the Year" by the Makati Business Club in 1999 and was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Business Management by De La Salle University in January of that year. He and his wife established the SM Foundation Inc., which helps underprivileged youths, the disabled and the elderly. He established business presence in Mainland China when the SM Group opened its first shopping mall in his native Xiamen. Other malls were later set up in other parts of Southern China.
Sy's holding company, SM Investments (also known as SM Group), has been frequently named as one of the best managed companies in the Philippines. SM Investments is the operator of Banco de Oro (BDO) and owner of Chinabank. In 2006, Sy bought the remaining 66% of Equitable PCI Bank, the Philippines' third largest lender, and merged it into BDO the following year. The transaction turned BDO into the second largest financial company in the country.
He was the Philippines' richest man, gaining $5 billion in 2010, amid the global financial crisis. The huge gain was due to his holding company, SM Investments, which has interests in BDO, inter alia. For 11 straight years until his death in 2019, Forbes ranked him as the richest person in the Philippines, with an estimated net worth of US$19 billion in 2019.
In 2017, Sy stepped down as chairman of SM Investments Corporation and was given the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus as recognition for being the founder of the SM Group. Jose Sio succeeded Sy as chairman.
Sy was married to Felicidad Tan, who was a shoelace vendor. The couple had six children: Teresita, Elizabeth, Henry Jr., Hans, Herbert, and Harley. Teresita and Henry Jr. are vice chairpersons of SM Investments, serving under chairman Jose Sio, a longtime lieutenant of Henry Sr. Harley serves as executive director of SM.
Sy died in his sleep at age 94. His body was discovered on the morning of January 19, 2019 in his home in Forbes Park, Makati. The interment took place at the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig, on January 24, 2019. The tomb of Sy is guarded 24/7.
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