Filipino tycoon John Gokongwei, Jr. Image Credit: Courtesy: Pinoy Trends

John Gokongwei, 91, is founder of JG Summit, which has interests in air transportation, telecommunications, banking, food, power and property development.

Dr. Gokongwei holds as Master's degree in Business Administration from the De La Salle University in the Philippines in 1977 and attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA from 1972 to 1973.

Net worth: $4.8 billion

According to Forbes, Gokongwei's net work as of June 6, 2018 is $4.8 billion.

The cornstarch plant he started in 1957 has grown into Universal Robina Corporation, one of the country's largest food and beverage companies.

His brother James Go chairs JG Summit. Gokongwei's only son, Lance, is president.

His eldest daughter, Robina, is the president of the family's Robinson Retail Holdings, Philippines' second largest multi-format retailer.

His other daughter, Lisa, runs Summit Media.

In 2017, Gokongwei led the Legacy Awardees of ASEAN Business Awards.

From riches rags — to riches

Gokongwei Jr. came from a wealthy Filipino-Chinese clan, known as one of the richest in Cebu. He studied in University of San Carlos, one of Cebu’s top schools. 

But all the trappings of wealth he enjoyed early in life were taken away from him when his father died. The creditor seized their home and cars, their business went bust and their possessions disappeared.

At 15, Gokongwei Jr. had to work to provide for his family. His mother had to sell her jewelries. 

His siblings were sent to China where the cost of living was cheaper. He sold roasted peanuts and opened up a small stall in the market, where he had to compete with other vendors to sell his goods. 

He sold soap, candles, and threads to earn money.

Determined as he was, Gokongwei Jr. knew he had an advantage as he was younger and he used this as a youth and strength in his job.

In 1943, while the World War still raged, Gokongwei Jr. began trading goods from Cebu to Manila. 

When the war ended, he went full blast with his trading business in the Philippines.

He put up Amasia Trading with his brother. 


Things didn’t always go his way. Failure often marked his success. He had a hard time to get a loan, but fortunately one bank trusted him. He started getting recognized at the business scene.

His early success helped bring back his siblings home to help out with the business. 

He then went on to pursue other business ventures: cornstarch manufacturing, food production, purchasing shares in San Miguel Corporation, the leading business in the 70s. 

In 1988, with a vision to make every Filipino fly, Gokongwei launched the low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific.

In the mid 1980s, 2003 he established a phone company. In 2004, he introduced C2 beverage.

John Gokongwei  Jr. is now considered a key player in the Philippine business scene providing thousands of jobs to people. 

He was the second-richest Filipino in 2016, according to Forbes Magazine. 

The business magnate is also a known philanthropist. In 2006, during a gathering to mark his 80th birthday and his holding company’s 50th anniversary, Gokongwei announced he is donating half his fortune to charity.


Gokongwei is the founder and chairman emeritus of Universal Robina Corporation, and Universal Robina (Cayman), Ltd.; chairman emeritus and founder of Robinsons Land Corporation, Director of A. Soriano Corporation, executive director of Oriental Petroleum and Minerals Corporation, non-executive Director of Cebu Air, Inc.; deputy chairman of Singapore Land Lt.,, and Chairman Emeritus of Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc, among others. He is also a non-executive Director of Manila Electric Company.