THE TROUBLE with being president and CEO, according to Erramon I. Aboitiz of listed Aboitiz Equity Ventures Corp., is that the buck definitely stops with you.
?You look around and there?s nobody ahead of you, but everyone?s following you,? explains the 53-year-old Aboitiz, who took over the reins of the Aboitiz group last Jan. 5 following the mandatory retirement of his cousin, Jon Ramon E. Aboitiz, who turned 60.
Aboitiz tells the Inquirer in an interview that it is this sense of immense responsibility resting on his shoulders that makes his current job very much different from that of a chief operating officer, even if he was second in command of the sprawling multibillion-peso conglomerate that spans from food, transportation and banking to power generation and distribution for 15 years.
Adding even more pressure is the great expectation of the large Aboitiz family, and the group?s partners, customers and shareholders, that he would carry on the tradition of excellence and profitability that has been the hallmark of the Cebu-based Aboitiz group since the days of Paulino Aboitiz, a shepherd who left the Basque region of Spain about 140 years ago to find his fortunes in the Philippines.
Aboitiz says, however, that his job has been made easier by the fact that he took over a company that runs like a well-oiled machine.
He also does not expect to stray too far from the direction set by Jon Ramon, now chair of AEV, the holding company of the Aboitiz group.
?What?s to change, really, when things are going great,? asks Aboitiz, who also did not make any significant changes to the Makati office vacated by his cousin, save for replacing some prints with paintings.
But what he does expect will happen is that the group will further increase its presence in the power sector, saying that the market dictates it.
?When I joined AEV in 1994, power accounted for maybe 20 percent of our group, mainly in distribution through Cotabato Light and Davao Light. Last year, power accounted for 70 percent of the business and about half of that was in generation,? says Aboitiz. ?I see power accounting for 80 percent of our business by 2010 and 2011.?
The group is already on its way to achieving its vision given its active participation in the privatization of government?s generation assets under the control of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.
Aboitiz, for instance, took over the 360-megawatt Magat hydroelectric power plant in 2007 through SN Aboitiz Power Inc. Last year, it won the 747.5-megawatt Tiwi-Makban geothermal facilities in Albay, Laguna and Batangas through AP Renewables Inc., an affiliate of Aboitiz Power Corp.
The latest deal involves the management of the 700-megawatt Pagbilao coal plant in Quezon through Aboitiz?s Therma Luzon Inc., and the group remains on the lookout for similar landmark deals in keeping with its thrust to be a formidable player in the country?s energy landscape.
?The opportunities in the power sector are always there,? says Aboitiz, a member of the fourth generation of Aboitizes now in control of the ever-expanding conglomerate. ?We have to always anticipate that public need in order to remain competitive.?
Aboitiz is the first to admit that ensuring that the group keeps that competitive edge sharp takes a lot of his time, more so now that he is president and CEO. But he says he is not the type to try and do everything himself, as he has every confidence in his team to do their job well.
?We are proud to have professionals in the organization. And if we do have family members in the group, that means that they are qualified, and will be able to add value. In our family, nobody has the right to a job,? stresses Aboitiz, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, major in Accounting and Finance from Gonzaga University.
He estimates that there are about 16 members of the fourth generation of Aboitizes working with the group and four from the fifth generation have followed.
?We are very close because we grew up with each other. From a pragmatic point of view, we think it is to our advantage that we stay together, there lies our strength,? says Aboitiz. ?And what I would really want is for the group to stay with the family and that the family perpetuates it, forever if possible.?