The rise of Dr. Andrew L. Tan: Inspiring family businesses

We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.
Jesse Owens

THERE are only a handful of Taipans in the Philippines who started their life as ordinary men. One individual that has achieved immense success and continues to inspire entrepreneurs to dream big and persevere amidst the very competitive environment was my former boss and mentor of eight years, 62-year-old Dr. Andrew L. Tan.

When most of the local taipans are in the twilight of their golden years, Dr. Tan is still very much in the plate and is far from corporate retirement.

Andrew is also the single biggest reason why I took the giant leap of faith in becoming an entrepreneur, Asean family business coach and a book author.

His phenomenal rise to the top in just a little over 10 years has caught everyone in the business community gasping for breath. The tenacity and speed by which he has grown the business and amassed his wealth is legendary.

Recently, Dr. Tan moved up to the list of the Philippines’ richest men (4th in the Forbes 2014 list of The Philippines’ 40 richest. His net worth is $5.1 billion.)

As an aside, his eldest son Kevin was one of my first rank and file employees and trainee when I established the Commercial Centers Group for Megaworld in 2001. I still recall Andrew calling me one bright morning 15 years ago requesting me to interview an “employee.” It turned out to be his eldest son Kevin. When I asked him what to do with his son, he said I could do whatever I want with Kevin, even fire him if he does not
perform.

I pegged Kevin’s first pay a little above the minimum wage at that time. I felt his pay was commensurate to his zero work experience. That was the start of my relationship with the father, my boss and his son, my subordinate. Kevin was an employee and was the most hardworking of them all, reporting for work in the morning and leaving the office late in the evening.

He rose to the ranks starting as my first leasing associate and in the course of my mentoring, he was promoted a few times until he became the group head and first vice president of the Lifestyle Malls a good 10 years later.

Going back to his father, how did this first generation Tan become a taipan in a little more than a decade?

The answer lies in 5 of his biggest strengths…First (speed) to market, financial genius, his obsession to create brand equity across all of his business units and most importantly hiring, trusting and empowering professionals. On top of that was also his uncanny ability to spot trends before his competitors could.

Andrew pioneered the concept of a live-work-play development for condominiums and residential homes. He saw that buyers wanted to do it all in real time…sleep, be with the family, work and shop (and even study) within the same integrated community or City center. That game-changing concept became known as Eastwood City.

The word “dominance” in the residential segment is an understatement, I have lost count of the number of high-rise buildings he has developed starting with the first 35 storey, One Beverly Place condo along Annapolis Street in Greenhills in 1989.

His real estate group, valued at more than P140 billion, all publicly listed and under the Megaworld, Empire East and SunTrust brands, constructed and sold more than 350 projects and counting.

To complement his residential units, Andrew pioneered and seized on the booming call center and business process outsourcing (BPO) market. He was practically ahead of everyone else as his Eastwood City development was already up and running despite the market crash in 1997. Having gone early into the game, he is now the biggest developer and the biggest landlord of BPO companies with a gross leasable floor area of a little less than a million square meters of office space.

These BPO office buildings are housed in pioneering developments in the P40-billion Eastwood City, P50-billion McKinley Hill, P40-billion Newport City, P20-billion Mactan Newtown and P25-billion Iloilo Business Park.

He has also acquired a majority interest in Fil-Estate Land and re-branded it to Global Estate and Resorts Inc. (GERI). With its land bank of 3,000 hectares, GERI is poised to jumpstart capital raising initiatives to fund its massive tourism oriented projects in Laguna, Batangas and Boracay.

On top of his real estate businesses, Tan is the chairman of public listed Alliance Global Group Inc. a holding firm ranked as the country’s 10th most valuable conglomerate with a market capitalization of more than P278 Billion. AGI also owns 49 percent of Golden Arches Dev’t. Corp., the franchise holder of the McDonald’s hamburger chain.

Dr. Tan also owns Consolidated Distillers Inc, makers of the Emperador brandy, the world’s largest selling brandy by volume.His Emperador Distillers went public last year and is now worth P173 Billion. Last May, Emperador acquired the world’s 5th biggest Scotchmaker Whyte and MacKay for US $720 Million outbidding global brands like LVMH.

(Part 2 next week will be Dr. Andrew Tan’s phenomenal rise from poverty to becoming one of the Country’s wealthiest tycoon.)

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