Many were saddened to hear the news of the death of Manila taipan Emilio Yap. His name may not ring a familiar bell as that of other taipans or businessmen, but he is influential nevertheless being the chair of historic Manila-based institutions such as the Manila Bulletin, (which also includes the historic Liwayway group of publications) Manila Hotel, and Centro Escolar University. Forbes Magazine as the 13th richest in the Philippines.
Like many Filipino-Chinese taipans, Emilio Yap was born in Fujian Province, China. Born on September 24, 1925, young Emilio first came to Manila actually to study, living with his grandfather who was already based in the city as a a trader. Though he had to go back to Fujian when his grandfather’s shop closed down, he returned some time later to become a trader himself. Even though it was wartime, he was doing quite well in the trading business, from starting off with selling white t-shirts, then to threads, then on to ballpens and watches.
After the war, he began selling surplus vehicles that were bought from the US, forming a company called US Automotive. It was this business that put Emilio Yap on the big-time, so to speak. With US Automotive’s success, he then ventured into other businesses like shipping with Philippine President Lines and banking with Philtrust Bank.
His involvement in the Manila Bulletin began in 1961 at the behest of Hans Menzi, a Swiss-Filipino businessman who owned the paper. Yap would buy a significant amount of shares and become the vice-chairman of the board while Menzi retained control and the chairmanship until his death in 1984. From then on, Yap took control of the paper, though not without challenges from the government (which stated much of the shares now owned by Yap was part of the ill-gotten Marcos wealth) and from Danding Cojuangco. (who claimed Menzi sold to him most of the shares of the paper) Complicated story best told elsewhere and someone else who knows more about this case.
In 1995, Yap made a bold move when he and his group took control of the Manila Hotel when news was abuzz that a foreign-based firm was looking into buying the hotel. However, the hotel fell into a tough period afterwards; it was only in recent years when it began to bounce back thanks to the many renovations that have been made to celebrate its centennial year.
He then set eyes in the education sector when in 2002, he took control of Centro Escolar University, the school founded by Librada Avelino and Carmen de Luna back in 1907. Since then, the school expanded beyond its Mendiola campus, as it now has satellite campuses in Makati and Malolos, Bulacan.
The Urban Roamer extends his condolences to the family of Emilio Yap and to the people especially in those institutions who see him as a pillar.