Martin L. LopezMartin L. Lopez (MLL) never dreamed he would chair the board of directors of the country’s largest media and entertainment company. Yet, on April 19, he was elected chairman of ABS-CBN Corporation, succeeding his cousin, ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez III (EL3).
In remarks to shareholders after their annual general meeting, EL3 said he was nominating MLL (for chairman), whose potential was already recognized under the company’s succession planning process as early as five years ago.
MLL’s first job, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Menlo College in California, was in ABSCBN. He joined the Business Development team reporting to EL3, who was the company’s president at the time. ABS-CBN was looking at new businesses and he was assigned to study cinema operations, eventually setting up cinemas in the Gaisano malls in Davao City. He stayed for three years with ABS-CBN and then moved to Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country’s largest electric distribution utility.
As management trainee, he moved around the different groups in Meralco, training with linemen and doing the rounds of branches.
“I learned pakikisama. I would join the linemen’s boodle-style lunch, where everybody would share his baon, mix all the food in the middle and eat with our hands. I would sometimes see them after hours and drink with them. It was a good experience and kept me grounded,” he recalls.
At the branches, he did a lot of hand-holding during the rollout of Meralco’s systemwide upgrade.
“I visited branches and met with people, worked with them side by side. I saw firsthand the problems they encountered. Working with many groups and immersing myself with those whose work truly served customers up to the last mile taught me how to relate comfortably with people from all levels of the hierarchy and witness malasakit, a practice MML [Lopez Holdings Corporation chairman Manuel M. Lopez] has passionately espoused during his leadership in Meralco.”
He spent 13 years in Meralco, at the same time earning his Executive Masters in Business Administration degree from the Asian Institute of Management, and then becoming vice president and chief information officer (CIO). He also concurrently served as president of e-Meralco Ventures Inc.
Vision of transformation
In 2011, he returned to ABS-CBN, which was again looking into new businesses. He said he got excited by EL3’s vision to transform ABS-CBN into a digital company beyond broadcasting.
“The mission and vision of ABS-CBN to be of service really resonates strongly with me. As EL3 puts it, being in ABSCBN is a calling. The mission to serve is not just what you do. It is your life and it’s what keeps you going.”
He joined the Information Technology team as the Group CIO responsible for setting the company’s strategic directions and ensuring operational excellence in IT and communications.
In 2013, he became chief technology officer. This allowed him to align systems and create synergy between the broadcast engineering and IT teams. Their projects included ABSCBN’s migration to the cloud and the automation of content creation and delivery to various media platforms.
MLL is also credited with the migration to HD (high definition) and the completion of the DTT (digital terrestrial television) infrastructure. Still, he was able to insert some studying in his already loaded schedule and completed INSEAD’s general management program last year (2017).
MLL says ABS-CBN’s biggest challenge is “how to remain relevant in this evolving media landscape, given the changing habits of the younger audiences that we want to serve.”
He says: “We have to make sure that the content we create is relevant to them. We have to make sure that we’re part of their everyday lives and that we create experiences that will motivate them to engage with us. We have to attract more content creators so that we can aggregate content and deliver them to our audience.”
Internally, he is heavily invested in the continuous process of “transforming ABS-CBN’s culture from a traditional analog business to a more agile, digital business.”
He adds: “We don’t have the luxury of time as in a traditional business. Digital has a faster pace. The competitor is only one click away.”
Committed to ABS-CBN mission
Among the Lopez Values, he says ABS-CBN most identifies with social justice (“given that a lot of the things we do give opportunities to people who are less privileged and in need”), integrity (“we are responsible for keeping all Filipinos informed through the news; we have to make sure that what we report is accurate and without bias”) and a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit (“because we have to constantly evolve; we are in a very creative business, so we have to help people thrive in this environment that will allow them to think of new things all the time”).
His message to LopezLink readers: “I come into this role with very big shoes to fill: my grandfather (Eugenio H. Lopez Sr.), Kapitan (Eugenio Lopez Jr.), Gabby (EL3). I hope I’ll be able to contribute in a way that will help us stay relevant to the people that we serve. We operate in a more complex and dynamic environment, we have to make sure we are able to adapt as quickly as we can. We will stay committed to the mission of our founding fathers to always be in the service of the Filipino. The business may change, but our values will remain.”