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Henry Sy Sr. led the professionalization of SM group

Henry Sy Sr.,

Before the death of Henry Sy Sr., the country’s acknowledged retail king, he made sure that the professionalization of the company he built from the ground up will come into fruition.

From the simple beginnings of “Shoe Mart,” Sy populated the country with his SM shopping malls and then expanded to other businesses to become one of the country’s large corporations to own most of the profitable businesses.

The SM group now owns BDO Unibank Inc., the country’s largest lender, and also China Bank, mining, logistics firm, hotels and casino, including half of City of Dreams Manila, the $1.5 billion integrated resort and casino in Entertainment City in Parañaque.

At first, Sy gave the management of his core businesses—shopping mall, property development and banks—to his children.

But only recently many of his children gave up top management positions to others, allowing a new breed of managers to come in, in part as a way to entice foreign investors to come in.

Although most of the members of the Sy family are still at the top of the company, the day-to-day operations are now being handled by other managers.

Teresita Sy-Coson, the eldest of Sy’s six children is the vice chairperson of SM Investments Corp. and chairperson of BDO. The holding firm is being led by Frederic DyBuncio, SMIC’s president and CEO, while BDO is led by Nestor V. Tan.

“I’m sure she (Teresita) is being consulted on the key decision aspects of the company,” a long time SM employee said.

Hans Sy, who previously run the property side, also gave up his management position from SM Prime to his protege Jeffrey C. Lim,

Henry Jr. or known as Big Boy, meanwhile, stepped down last year as president and CEO of National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, to manage his own cement company. Big Boy owns a majority of NGCP.

Sy’s other children were Harley, Elizabeth and Herbert.

Even Sy Sr. himself gave up his chairman position in SM Investments Inc. to his friend and long-time chief finance officer Jose T. Sio.

Sy died on Saturday. He was 94.

“Sad day for we lost the father of our local retail industry and the leaders in business. His pioneering ideas contributed greatly to our economic growth especially the employment of many,” Astro del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Finance Inc. said.

“(Sy) passed away peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning,” the SM group said in a statement.

Wake is being held at Heritage Chapel in Taguig through Wednesday evening and interment is on Thursday.

Sy had been known to be ailing the past several years, and would occasionally appear in public, especially during his holding firm’s annual stockholders’ meeting, on a wheelchair.

His appearances had become very rare in recent years, reserved mainly for the advocacy closest to his heart—the graduation of the scholars of SM Foundation, many of whom have themselves become the stuff of inspiring rags-to-riches stories.

Besides scholarships, he made substantive donations to hospitals and built clinics.

Sy is survived by his wife Felicidad and six children.

Born in 1923, Sy is the founder and chairman of SM Prime Holdings Inc., the operator of the chain of malls in the country and in China.—reprinted with permission from the BusinessMirror

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