John Robinson Lim Gokongwei Jr. (traditional Chinese: 吳奕輝; simplified Chinese: 吴奕辉; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gô͘ E̍k-hui; pinyin: Wú Yìhuī; 11 August 1926 – 9 November 2019)[2] was a Filipino banker, businessman, investor, and philanthropist. His conglomerate company JG Summit Holdings, Inc., had an extensive panoply of business and investment holdings across the Filipino economy, including shipping, telecommunications, retail, financial services, petrochemicals, real estate, utilities, aviation, food, beverages, and livestock farming.

John Gokongwei
John LIM Gokongwei, Jr.

(1926-08-11)11 August 1926
Died9 November 2019(2019-11-09) (aged 93)
Manila, Philippines
EducationDe La Salle University (MBA)
Occupation(s)Businessman, investor, philanthropist, banker
Known forFounder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings[1]
Elizabeth Yu
(m. 1958)
Children6, including Lance Gokongwei
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese吳奕輝
Simplified Chinese吴奕辉

Early life


Gokongwei was born in China to John Gokongwei Sr. and Juanita Márquez Lim. His father was a scion of a wealthy Cebu-based family with ancestral ties to China's Southern Fujian province. His great-grandfather (1859–1921; simplified Chinese: 吴文鮡; traditional Chinese: 吳文鮡; pinyin: Wú Wénzhào; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gô͘ Bûn-thiâu), a young peddler from China, was Hispanized as Pedro Singson Gotiaoco (simplified Chinese: 吴鮡哥; traditional Chinese: 吳鮡哥; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gô͘ Thiâu-ko) and became one of the Philippines' most prominent Chinese Filipinos.[3]

Gokongwei attended the basic education department of University of San Carlos for primary school (graduating valedictorian) and high school.[4]

The family fortune was lost after the death of his father in 1939 when Gokongwei was 13 years old and World War II (1939–1945) was just broke out. During these difficult years, he had to make ends meet by initially supporting his family by peddling items along the streets of Cebu from his bicycle.[5] From the years 1943 to 1945, or between the ages of 17 and 19, he became a merchant trader using a wooden boat, taking his goods to Dalahican, Lucena by sea and then to Manila by truck.

Business career


After World War II, he started his own shipping company called Amasia Trading, which imported flour, onions, fruits, used clothing, old newspapers, and magazines from the United States into the Philippines.[citation needed]

In the early 1950s, along with his brothers and sisters who returned from China, he started to import cigarettes and whiskey too. By 1957, seeing that trading would always generate profit low margins[5] and would always be dependent on the whims of government policies, the family concern shifted towards industrial manufacturing. With a loan of 500 thousand pesos from Albino Sycip, then chairman of China Bank, and Dee K. Chiong, Gokingwei established a corn milling plant producing glucose and corn starch. The company was named Universal Corn Products (which later evolved into hie even corporate conglomerate, Universal Robina Corporation).[6] San Miguel Corporation was a big customer of theirs.

In 1961, he established Consolidated Food Corporation (later known as CFC Corporation, which later merged with Universal Robina Corporation), which launched its instant coffee brand Blend 45.

In 1977, Gokongwei earned his Master of Business Administration from De La Salle University. A decade later, he attended a 14-week advanced management program at Harvard.[5]

In November 1990, Gokongwei incorporated JG Summit Holdings was floated as a publicly listed holding company on the Manila Stock Exchange. In March 1996, his airline, Cebu Pacific Air began operations. In 2010, the airline underwent major refleeting with a $3 billion order with Airbus. From 2003, his telecommunications company Digital Telecommunications Philippines spent nearly $800 million for its mobile carrier, Sun Cellular, which was the third-largest mobile operator in the Philippines at that time before selling to the PLDT group for $1.7 billion.

In 2013, his company bought the stake of San Miguel Corporation in Meralco, Philippines's largest power distributor for close to $1.8 billion. In July 2014, Universal Robina acquired Griffin's Foods from Pacific Equity Partners, a New Zealand food producer for $609 million.

In 2014, Gokongwei attempted to mastermind a $1 billion corporate takeover of United Industrial Corporation Ltd (UIC), a Singaporean property giant of which he owned in excess of 30%. UIC controls Singapore Land, which is one of the biggest property landholders in Singapore.[7]

He also owned Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. and Robinsons Land Corporation.

The Gokongwei family controls over $20 billion of combined market capitalization for all the companies they own.

In February 2008, Forbes Asia magazine's first Heroes of Philanthropy list included four Filipinos – Gokongwei, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Ramón del Rosario Jr. and Oscar López. The list was composed of four philanthropists each from 13 selected countries and territories in Asia.[8]



On 29 August 2007, at the Ateneo de Manila University, Gokongwei's biography, John L. Gokongwei Jr.: The Path of Entrepreneurship, by the university's Dr. Marites A. Khanser, was launched, and it narrated the "riches-to-rags-to-riches" story of the tai-pan. Gokongwei stated that entrepreneurship is a way out of poverty. Khanser's book also enumerated the Nine Rules of business success[9] that Gokongwei followed since he was still a young businessman. In 2002 Gokongwei donated P200-million to the undergraduate school of management. He also gave donations to University of San Carlos, Xavier School, De La Salle University, Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu and Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA).[10]

Personal life


Gokongwei married Elizabeth Yu in 1958 and had six children (one son and five daughters) – Lisa, Robina, Lance, Faith, Hope and Marcia.[11][12] All his children play an active role in the Gokongwei group.

His eldest daughter, Robina, heads the operations of Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. (she owns Robinsons Malls), as the company's COO since 2002.[13] His only son, Lance, currently leads the group as president and CEO of JG Summit.

He was a second cousin once removed of Andrew Gotianun Sr., the founder of Filinvest Development Corporation.[14] Gokongwei's great-grandfather was a half brother of Gotianun's grandfather. He is also second cousins with the Gaisano family, with Doña Modesta Singson-Gaisano being his grandaunt (his grandfather's sister) which he used to call in Hokkien Chinese: 老阿姑; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Lǎu Á-ko͘; lit. 'Old Auntie', under his great-grandfather, Don Pedro Singson Gotiaoco[15]



Gokongwei died in Manila on 9 November 2019, at the age of 93.[16] Exactly one week after his death, his widow Elizabeth Yu Gokongwei died at the age of 85.[17][18]

See also



  1. ^ "Board of Directors". JG Summit Holdings, Inc. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  2. ^ Dumlao-Abadilla, Doris (10 November 2019). "John Gokongwei Jr., Industry Game Changer; 93". Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  3. ^ Gokongwei, Lisa and Lance (August 2001). "Mr. John's Life and Times". I Did It My Wei.
  4. ^ Fernandez, Yvette (19 October 2018). "Watch: John Gokongwei, Jr. Talks About School, Business, and the New Digital Age". Town & Country. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Gokongwei, John Jr. (1 March 2002). Speech delivered last March 1, 2002 during the launch of the Ateneo de Manila University John Gokongwei School of Management (Speech). JG Summit Holdings Inc. Archived from the original on 4 April 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Company History". Universal Robina Corporation. Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  7. ^ "UIC makes unconditional $762m offer for SingLand". Retrieved 20 July 2023.
  8. ^ "4 Filipinos in New Forbes Heroes List". Retrieved 29 February 2008.[dead link]
  9. ^ "Gokongwei's Nine Rules of Business Success". 8 February 2010. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  10. ^ Remo, Amy R. (1 September 2007). "A Way out of Poverty, According to 'Mr. John'". Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  11. ^ Punzalan, Justine (20 November 2019). "John and Elizabeth Gokongwei: A Love Story Not Limited by Life on Earth". Philippine Entertainment Forum. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  12. ^ Gonzalez, Bianca (1 September 2013). "Publishing Mogul Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng's Dream: To Own a Tiny Bookstore". 10 Things. The Philippine Star. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  13. ^ Arceo-Dumlao, Tina (17 January 2015). "Daughter Fulfills Father's Wish, Heads Giant Robinsons Retail". Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  14. ^ Agustin, Victor C. (12 January 2007). "SGV Boys Stir up KPMG Kerfuffle". Cocktails. Manila Standard Today. Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2008.
  15. ^ Flores, Wilson Lee (20 June 2010). "The Secret Father of President Sergio Osmeña & Forebear of John Gokongwei, Jr., Gaisanos, Gotianuns". Philstar Global. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  16. ^ "John Gokongwei Jr. Passes Away at 93". ABS-CBN News. 10 November 2019. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  17. ^ "John Gokongwei Jr.'s Widow Elizabeth Passes Away". ABS-CBN News. 16 November 2019. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Elizabeth, Wife of 61 Years of John Gokongwei Jr., Dies One Day after His Burial". BusinessMirror. 16 November 2019. Retrieved 3 July 2022.