Henry Sy, the richest man in the Philippines who established Shoe Mart (SM) and turned it into diversified conglomerate, passed away peacefully in his sleep Saturday (January 19). He was 94.
In a statement, SM Prime Holdings president Jeffrey Lim requested the public to pray for the eternal repose of Sy’s soul. No other details were given about his death.
Sy was number one on Forbes’ list of richest Filipinos for 11 years in a row, with his net worth estimated at $19 billion.
Born in Xiamen, China in November 1924, Sy and his family moved to the Philippines in search of a better life when he was a young boy.
During World War 2, the Sy’s small sari-store along Echague Street in Quiapo burned down. The tragedy prompted Sy’s father to return to China while he stayed behind, determined to succeed even though he was practically penniless.
Sy worked hard to finish his studies, graduating with a degree in commercial studies from the Far Eastern University in 1950.
Six years after graduating from college, Sy opened a small shoe store in Quiapo, Manila where he sold surplus G.I boots. In 1972, the store became SM Quiapo, SM’s first stand alone department store.
From shoes, Sy expanded his product offerings to include other items such as clothing and home accessories. In 1967, he bought Acme Savings Bank, which would later become Banco De Oro.
In 1985, SM North Edsa was opened to the public. This started SM Prime Holdings’ spree of building retail centers.
At present, SM Prime Holdings is the country’s largest shopping center and developer, with 72 malls nationwide and seven in China.
SM has also branched out into banking through BDO and property through SM Prime Holdings. It also has interests in tourism and leisure (Belle Corporation), mining (Atlas Consolidated Mining) and logistics (2Go Group).
Sy was unmatched in his generosity as he became more successful. In 2013, he was named by Forbes Asia as one of its 48 “Heroes of Philanthropy” for donating $112 million to an unnamed foundation and $7 million to De La Salle University for the construction of a building named after him.