Third-generation Lopezes earn their spurs
NOT all the grandchildren of Eugenio H. Lopez Sr. (Don Eñing
) work for the group of companies that he founded. But those who do have had to start from the bottom and work their way up. In fact, some of them started working outside the Lopez Group, and were later reeled in to serve.
For example, 1) Benjamin R. Lopez
(Jay), youngest son of Lopez Group chairman Oscar M. Lopez (OML), first worked as a management trainee for a European trading company in Singapore. “It was the early ‘90s [and] the entire Asia Pacific was booming. It was a very exciting period,”
Jay recalls. He was moving into his second year when OML asked him to come back home. “It was, obviously, an offer I could not refuse,”
Jay joined First Philippine Holdings Corporation (FPHC), spent his first few years with the business development group looking into the electronics and export-oriented businesses under the late Tato Diaz, but was soon seconded to Rockwell Land Corporation where he was mentored by Rockwell CEO Nestor Padilla. After 10 fruitful years in Rockwell where he learned the ins and outs of the property development business, Jay returned to FPHC where he is currently vice president and assistant to the chairman.
His eldest brother 2) Oscar R. Lopez Jr.
(Cary) also spent three years in the US working for a petroleum company and later a personal computing firm before returning home to join the information technology department of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation in 1986. After 10 years in ABS-CBN, he moved to FPHC where he started as one of two people in procurement. Today, Cary is vice president for administration with a staff of 12. 3) Federico R. Lopez (Piki)
, now chief executive officer of First Gen Corporation, started in the agriculture side of the business in 1987, trading fruits and vegetables around the country, living in the small town of Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, and building and operating aquaculture farms. In 1993, he shifted gears and formed the power and energy task force of FPHC that eventually led to establishing and acquiring many of the First Gen companies currently under their wing.
“If there’s any powerful legacy that Lolo Eñing has left us with, it’s that many of our businesses are imbued with public service. FPHC spent years trying out other businesses but somehow we would always be irresistibly drawn back to providing many basic public services. “Of course, these very same businesses have either been spectacular successes or have caused us some painful heartaches. These last few years have given us many experiences both good and bad and if there’s any major lesson to take away from all these it’s that in public service, good intentions are never enough. Simply having a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude is a sure recipe for disaster. It’s just as important to win the trust, hearts and minds of the public and give them the best value for their hard-earned money. I think Lolo understood this deeply and did this in his own way, fit for the era in which he lived. But as times change and the public becomes even more demanding we have to be ready to meet those challenges and continue to earn that trust in new and innovative ways.”
During martial law when many members of the Lopez family were in self-exile in the US, their cousin 4) Rogy Panganiban
, Studio Tours manager in ABS-CBN, worked for a car rental agency while another cousin, 5) Rafael L. Lopez
, chief executive officer of ABS-CBN Global, pumped fuel for a gas station. “I consider it a blessing in disguise. If the going gets tough, we know from our own experience that we can do it, we can survive,”
says Panganiban. 6) Gina Lopez
, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI), started working for the foundation as head of the disaster desk reporting to then AFI director Gretchen Ocampo. After earning her Master in Development Management degree at the Asian Institute of Management in 1991-1992, she was appointed to head AFI and thus, began expanding the reach of projects and adding to the menu of socially responsible endeavors that the foundation spearheads, among them Bantay Bata 163, E-Media, Bantay Kalikasan, BayaniJuan, and Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig. 7) Martin L. Lopez
(Mark), vice president and chief information officer of Meralco and head of e-Meralco Ventures Inc., joined Meralco in 1998 as a management trainee. He went through the lineman’s training course, climbing poles as high as 30 meters, and joined field units inspecting illegal connections in order to have hands-on experience of fieldwork. He eventually got involved in the technology side of the business.
Although too young to recall any experiences with Don Eñing, Mark grew up with the same values that the old man taught his own children. “Working in Meralco today even after he (Don Eñing) has been gone for over 30 years now, his legacy still lives on and you can somehow feel it as you walk along the corridors of the Lopez Building. He had a genuine concern for his employees which I have also seen with MML (Meralco chairman Manuel M. Lopez, Mark’s dad) throughout his years in Meralco,”
he says. 8) Miguel L. Lopez
(Mike), marketing head of Meralco, explains thus: “My dad (MML) and his brothers were really tough on the next generation. They don’t want anyone saying that we are here just because we are Lopez grandchildren. They want us to prove that we’ve done our share in terms of learning the business. That is what Lolo Eñing did to them. It’s the same discipline which they are instilling in all of us. When I came back from my studies abroad I was offered by NYNEX (partner at Bayan) to train with them and learn the telecommunications business. This required learning the fundamentals such as climbing a telephone pole at their pole barn in Massachusetts and looking for a dial tone. Also, I had to spend some days under the busy streets of Manhattan splicing fiber optic cables. Part of the training included traveling the world to learn business development and understand how joint ventures are structured among different nationalities.”
As the members of the third generation rise from the ranks and assume greater responsibility, they are guided by the values passed on by their parents from Don Eñing and make it their goal to add value to the work and the business entrusted to them. 9) Eugenio L. Lopez III
(Gabby), chairman of ABS-CBN and eldest grandchild of Don Eñing, particularly admires his grandfather’s business acumen. “He was a visionary, always willing to take risks and to make the bets that would transform the business landscape. He was also very nationalistic. What he did with Meralco was unprecedented. Meralco was in the hands of foreigners, it was big risk but he took it because he believed it would help in nation building,”
Gabby says. 10) Cedie Lopez Vargas
, director of Lopez Memorial Museum, affirms their grandfather’s love of country. “Understanding his essence all came together when I went to the museum. I got to know the spirit of the man in what he collected. He was a historian, an adventurer, a nationalist. As a child, I saw his adventurous spirit in his desire to always try something new, whether it is food, a new place or any new experience. This spirit now echoes in my consciousness and in his legacy in the museum,”
says Cedie. 11) Rina Lopez Bautista
, president and executive director of Knowledge Channel Foundation, says their Lolo Eñing was always larger than life. “I was always in awe of him, his foresight and his determination to tread where others had not. Being the founder of the Lopez Group, there were many things about him that touched our lives, but for me, the one thing that stood out was his generosity. He was not only generous to his family and friends but to others whose lives he touched and to the Filipino in general. I would hear time and time again how he helped this or that individual or family and our country in his different undertakings. I feel that this generosity and giving nature is expressed by us in all our different endeavors. Each of us gives and serves others in our own ways,
” Rina says. 12) Geni Psinakis
, entrepreneur and Don Eñing’s youngest grandchild, was only two weeks old when the old man passed away. But she keeps his philanthropic values alive as she works full time as director of development for WE International Philippines, a new nongovernment organization committed to eliminating poverty and collaborating toward holistic approaches to the many issues people in poverty face. WE is currently focusing on the Smokey Mountain area and has an existing partnership with the Palawan Project Foundation. It continues to look for opportunities to make a positive impact throughout the country.
Perhaps equal in importance to helping others, 13) Ernesto L. Lopez
(Ernie), head of ABS-CBN Publishing, also values how they were taught to help themselves. He remembers his grandfather’s perseverance, a trait he also saw in his father, the late Eugenio Lopez Jr. (Geny), especially in the middle of seemingly insurmountable odds. “He (Geny) would just chip away, chip away [at the problem] and not give up…I think that Lolo and my dad would be proud that the Lopez Group is still able to thrive and survive and adapt. A few years ago, we had a difficult slump, but we recovered. They’d be pleased to know that they built an organization that was able to adapt and it was not relying purely on the founders…They wanted an organization that outlived them. That was their goal,”
says Ernie. Note: Portions excerpted from “Passing the Torch.”