Meeting of the mindlessBy Conrado R. Banal III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Andrew Tan, the new Filipino taipan, at least according to international business magazine Forbes’ listing of the world’s billionaires, is the “X” factor in the ongoing tussle between two groups in Manila Southwoods Golf Club.
As everybody in the stock market knows, particularly those who made a killing by riding on the rise of Andrew Tan’s companies, his property conglomerate, known simply as “Megaworld,” already took majority control of the listed Fil-Estate Land.
Asset rich but cash broke, the company controls huge properties in golf communities, including the Manila Southwoods, which was among the first to be completed in the boom in golf community development in the early 1990s.
Now two groups are fighting for control of the golf club’s board—one led by the chair, Bob Sobrepeña, who is also chair of the Fil-Estate group, and the other called the “Movement for Reform.”
Recently the Sobrepeña group maneuvered the postponement of the annual stockholders’ meeting. In a letter to club members, Sobrepeña said the club needed a little time to put order into the yearly board elections, such as in the solicitation of proxies from members. He claimed that, for the postponed stockholders’ meeting last month, an unknown number of proxies in fact were forgery.
In its website, the “Movement for Reform” said the proxies were already certified as valid by Union Bank. Thus, the group reiterated their position on the postponement: It was designed to keep the Sobrepeña group in control of the club.
For his part, however, Sobrepeña said he would not seek election to the board in the rescheduled annual stockholders’ meeting. This, according to the reform group, remains to be seen.
It is hard to say whether or not the “Movement for Reform” will cease to exist if and when Sobrepeña exits out of the Southwoods board. Will there be peace at last in the Southwoods front?
It may indeed be, with the entry of Andrew Tan as the white knight into those hanging Fil-Estate projects, including golf communities. Sobrepeña simply seeks a graceful exit from Southwoods. Possible.
The reform group, nevertheless, has hammered Sobrepeña and his group for causing what they called the “low valuation” of the Southwoods club shares. I do not know about that.
The last time I checked, mindless as I was of the word war among stockholders in Southwoods, the prices of most golf club shares, except for those of a few clubs like Manila Golf or Wack Wack Golf, have never really recovered from the bloodbath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Many are still priced dirt cheap up to today.
In the meantime, Megaworld took over the management of another Fil-Estate-developed golf community in Cavite, which features the Jack Nicklaus-designed Sherwood Hills Golf.
From what I gathered, things are starting to look up at the golf club, where maintenance has been rather poor in the past few years, owing perhaps to lack of cash. It could be the Andrew Tan magic touch at work here again, and the golf club would anchor the property boom in the golf community.
Based on their website, those behind the “Movement for Reform” agreed to sit down with the Sobrepeña group, in some sort of a peace talk, which was done prior to the announcement of Andrew Tan’s entry into the Fil-Estate group. They then said the Sobrepeña group probably wanted the truce, pending the deal between Fil-Estate and Megaworld.
But just exactly what role the Megaworld group would play in Southwoods, as I said, is still the biggest unknown factor. For one, there has been a lot of noise in the ongoing fight between those two groups of club members. I am not sure that even a big business figure like Andrew Tan would want to get embroiled in such a messy intramural.
By the way, if I may ask, would you also want to be a member there?
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OK, it is true confession time: I may love golf today, but my first love was really basketball. And so I am saddened by this case involving the basketball player Greg Slaughter, the tallest amateur basketball player in the country today, who played for the University of Visayas and was about to don the Ateneo Blue Eagle uniform in this year’s UAAP.
Reportedly, some people were trying to bar Slaughter from playing in the league this year, saying that he needed another year of residency, citing a rule in the league that prohibits a player who is establishing residency in a particular school from playing for another team in any league. Fine!
But Slaughter actually played for the Philippine national team. Are those people telling our athletes that, if they become part of the national team and carry the Philippine flag, they shall be penalized? There is no other way to look at it.
Slaughter, they said, should have obtained an exemption from the UAAP board when he played for the national team. Really now, they expected the poor guy to know all those technical voodoos by himself beforehand. If there was an error here somewhere, it was committed by the school, not by the basketball player. Punish the school. Allow Slaughter to play.
In truth, the prohibition in the residency rule was intended to prevent other school or semi-pro leagues from snaring UAAP players—not the national team. The last time I checked, the UAAP was allowing both “active” players and those establishing residency to play for the national team without asking for the board’s permission.
What makes the case of Slaughter any different then? Well, I think the boy is so damn good in what he does, and the only way to stop him is to destroy him for good. How fair is that?
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