by Esquire Philippines
The release of the Forbes Philippines’ 50 Richest list always makes the headlines, even if there are few surprises. This year, for example, SM mogul Henry Sy tops the list for the tenth time in a row, followed—again—by John Gokongwei and Enrique Razon.
It’s a different story when you look at the younger billionaires on the list. This is where you find new names and a few interesting stories. With more or less self-made fortunes, the under-45 tycoons here have earned their places on the list through lots of hard work, some smarts, luck—and sometimes a little bit of cunning.
EDGAR SIA, 40 (Double Dragon Properties), ranked #21 with US$840M
At 40, Injap Sia is both the youngest on the Forbes list and also the highest-ranking among the under-45 set. More importantly, his fortune is entirely self-made: the young entrepreneur was only 26 when he opened the first Mang Inasal store, which he sold to Jollibee Foods Corp. for a total of Php5 Billion. Though he no longer qualifies as a dollar billionaire as of this year (he was listed at #17 with US$1.2B in 2016), it’s still a big improvement from the #34 spot he held in 2015. The surge was attributed to the rapid growth and expansion of Double Dragon Properties, a real estate development company that he owns alongside partners like Jollibee founder Tony Tan Caktiong.
ROBBIE ANTONIO, 40 (Century Properties), ranked #28 with US$400M (together with his father, Jose Antonio)
After landing on the cover of our July 2017 issue, Robbie Antonio joins his father, Jose Antonio, on the Forbes list, coming in at #28. It’s the family-owned Century Properties that earns them their position on the list, but Robbie’s own startup, Revolution Precrafted Ltd., gets special mention. The maker of prefabricated luxury homes is currently valued at US$256M, after launching in 2015.
MICHAEL COSIQUIEN, 43, and EDGAR SAAVEDRA, 42 (Megawide Construction), ranked #29 with US$385M and #31 with US$375M, respectively
Michael Cosiquien and Edgar Saavedra were only in their early 20s, just out of college, when the pair founded their own company in 1997. It was tantamount to “on-the-job training for us,” Cosiquien told Inside Business with Coco Alcuaz in 2014. Both civil engineers, it took courage to have put up Megawide Construction then, since the economy was in the depths of the Asian financial crisis. It wasn’t until around 2007 that the company began to really take off, after having bagged major projects from SMDC. Today, Megawide has expanded from their core business, and now has interests in the Mactan Cebu International Airport and even in power generation—the company owns three solar power projects that together supply about 100 megawatts to the national power grid.
MICHAEL ROMERO, 44 (GlobalPort 900), ranked #47 with US$135M
One of the most colorful characters on the list, Michael Romero has certainly had his ups and downs over the past year. Romero was elected to Congress as the 1-Pacman Party List representative in May 2016; months later, a court ordered his arrest over charges of embezzlement from the family-owned company Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. Even before that, Forbes reports that Romero’s holding company, GlobalPort 900, “was delisted from the Philippine Stock Exchange and trading suspended in May 2014 in what he described then as a temporary software mix-up.” Romero is currently in hiding, with his whereabouts unknown since the warrant for his arrest was issued in January 2017.