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    SM’s Henry Sy built his empire from 10 centavos, dies as Southeast Asia’s richest man

    MANILA, Philippines – Born to a poor family in Xiamen, China, Henry Sy and her family moved to the Philippines in search of a better life. The family owned a sari-sari store in Quiapo but this was damaged in World War II.
    SM’s Henry Sy built his empire from 10 centavos, dies as Southeast Asia’s richest man

    Broken by the situation, Sy’s father went back to China but he chose to stay even though he only had 10 centavos left.

    Alone in the Philippines, Sy learned English and Tagalog, juggling his studies with work as he supported himself in school. He earned a degree in commercial studies from Far Eastern University, something that would be of much help to him as he later built his empire from just 10 centavos.

    From Shoemart to SM Malls

    Opening a shoe business that sold surplus GI boots, he opened Shoemart along Rizal Avenue in 1958. With his excellent entrepreneurial skills, he was soon able to open a second shoe store in Carriedo, Manila.

    SM’s Henry Sy built his empire from 10 centavos, dies as Southeast Asia’s richest man
    Photo credit: ABS-CBN News

    Beginning in 1963, Sy would open larger Shoemart store. Shoemart Manila located on Calle Echague was opened in 1972 – and this would be transformed into Sy’s first department store, getting a new name as SM Department Store.

    This was just the first of many stores that would grow into malls. Dubbed as the ‘Golden Age of SM Malls’, the 1990s saw a lot of SM malls getting opened across the country, thanks to the incorporation of SM Prime Holdings.

    By 2001, Sy would bring his malls to China. Today, SM Prime has seven malls located in China: in Xiamen, Jinjiang, Chengdu, Suzhou, Chongqing, Zibo and Tianjin.

    Expansion to banks and real estate

    Sy was a visionary who knew he should not just focus on the shoe store. This led him to opening the malls as well as venturing into other business opportunities.

    As early as the 1960s, be bought Acme Savings Bank and transformed this to Banco de Oro (BDO). Now known as BDO Unibank, Inc. after BDO’s merger with Equitable PCI Bank in 2006, the firm is the largest bank in the Philippines in terms of total assets.

    SM’s Henry Sy built his empire from 10 centavos, dies as Southeast Asia’s richest man
    Photo credit: ABS-CBN News

    Through SM Development Corporation (SMDC), SM entered the real estate market with Chateau Elysée, in Paranaque in 2003. From that maiden condominium project, SMDC now has multiple real estate projects not just in Metro Manila and Luzon, but also in Visayas and Mindanao.

    On January 19, 2019, Sy died at the age of 94 – not just as the Philippines’ richest man but also as the richest man in Southeast Asia with a net worth of $18.3 billion.

    — Joy Adalia, The Summit Express

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