MANILA, Philippines — Television variety show host Wilfredo “Willie” Revillame is jumping ship—not into a new TV network—but into full-time entrepreneurship after announcing on May 21 that he will not renew his three-year contract with TV5 this coming October.
In a rare interview with business reporters, Revillame, who said he would be taking a “vacation” from the entertainment industry, discussed his plans to make his mark in the tourism sector, which he described as the country’s next major engine of growth.
Revillame is already part of a venture with friend and property mogul, Senator Manuel Villar Jr., for a condominium project in Quezon City called Wil Towers.
But his first venture into tourism would be an upscale hotel in Tagayatay City overlooking its famous lake, that would open within a year and a half, Revillame said. The hotel will be a “five-star” venue with 35 to 40 rooms as well as villas that can house as many as 30 people, and the villas will come with their own private pools, according to Revillame.
The project’s success could pave the way for similar developments in other tourist hotspots, he said.
“In business, tourism is the best. It supports airlines, hotels and showcases the beaches and other natural attractions of the Philippines,” he said, mainly in Filipino, during the topping-out ceremony at Wil Tower Mall over the weekend. “Look at Thailand, Bali and the Maldives which are visited by superstars like Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise.”
Revillame, who claims to avoid risky instruments like equities and prefers the more conservative time deposit facilities, has nonetheless opened up his wallet to ventures not available to ordinary investors.
He shared, for instance, plans to expand his private jet business to include a new $11 million plane.
Revillame already owns a 30-seat German-made Dornier 328, acquired for $5 million, which he leases out to VIPs and serves as recurring income for the TV host. He also owns an events venue in Quezon City called Wil’s Events Place.
“Trabaho ko is pang-masa. So yung ginagawa kong business, pang high-end yan. [My hosting job is for the masses so my businesses are for the high-end market],” Revillame said.
It was difficult to estimate Revillame’s net worth as there are no confirmed reports on the value of his contracts. Thus, many look to his possessions such as luxury sports cars and homes, his yacht and private jet as proxies of his earning power.
Revillame, a former professional drummer, parlayed his talent for comedy and his keen eye for mass market entertainment into one of the biggest variety show franchises in the country starting with the 2005 premier of “Wowowee” on ABS-CBN, one of two leading TV networks in the Philippines.
The show, which features song and dance numbers while Revillame himself doles out cash prizes to guests, is now called “Wowowillie” and its last episode airs on October 12. It has been re-branded three times since Revillame left ABS-CBN and has drawn its fair share of controversies, such as one instance involving a macho dance by a tearful six-year-old boy.
The TV host has had several run-ins with regulator Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
Revillame may find the regulatory environment in tourism more friendly given the government’s drive to boost visitors to the country.
The Department of Tourism wants the number of foreign visitors to grow to 10 million by 2016 from 4.3 million tourists last year. The government is also rolling out more infrastructure projects to support this initiative.
Revillame told reporters he would spend his break from television to reflect on what to do next.
Asked about plans to enter politics, Revillame said he had no near-term plans given his lack of expertise.
“Pag-tumakbo ako Senador, kunwari lang, at nanalo ako anong gagawin ko doon? Wala akong alam sa law, sa batas [ If I run for a senate seat and if I win what will I do there? I don’t know anything about law making],” he said.
He said his other businesses would keep him busy in the coming months but the TV host made it clear where he would rather be moving forward.
“My real business is showbiz. I invested my life there,” he said.