BIZ BUZZ: Consolidating power | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: Consolidating power

/ 04:20 AM May 04, 2022

Today’s annual stockholders meeting of the LT Group Inc. is going to be closely watched by the business community and the company’s business partners and investors, large and small, for the rumored board changes that may—or may not—happen.

For some weeks now, Biz Buzz has been hearing rumors that the “first family” of taipan Lucio Tan will consolidate control of the conglomerate as its “Kapitan” is continually kept physically isolated ostensibly due to health protocols (he survived a major COVID-19 scare last year).


And in this group, “consolidating control” almost invariably means easing the leading personality of the “second family”—Michael Tan—out of the scene, sometimes abruptly and sometimes with some finesse.

One example of an abrupt move to remove Michael from the inner circle happened a few weeks ago in the 50-50 joint venture (JV) firm that the family’s Eton Properties has with Ayala Land Inc.


The joint venture company—called Eton ALI Property Development Corp.—is in the process of developing Parklinks, a 35-hectare estate along C-5 straddling the cities of Pasig and Quezon, with an estimated investment value of P53 billion.

Both the Tan and Ayala groups get to nominate an equal number of board directors under the agreement. Of course, it goes without saying that the Zobel family that controls the Ayala conglomerate had gone into the joint venture fully confident that they knew the personalities they would be dealing with on the JV firm’s board.

Well, surprise surprise. A day before the firm’s annual stockholders meeting a few weeks ago, the first family of the Tan side decided to pull the rug from under the feet of Michael, announcing suddenly that he would not be on the group’s board slate to be ratified the following day.

Surprisingly, former Procter & Gamble president Johnip Cua—highly respected in business circles here and abroad—was also taken out of the lineup, along with another nominee who was excluded for an unrelated reason.

They were replaced with three nominees who were, of course, firmly within the camp of the first family.

Another key personality who was replaced unceremoniously was Jose Gabriel Olives, who served as the JV’s chief financial officer—a post that is nominated by the Tan group.

Needless to say, the Ayala side was shocked by the move, especially since they were not given the customary heads-up by the Tan side about the upcoming replacements. More importantly, the Ayala side seemed comfortable dealing with the previous set of board nominees and didn’t get the chance to vet the incoming ones.


A number of ranking Ayala officials were left scratching their heads, we’re told. They were also left wondering about the future of the multibillion-peso joint venture, especially if surprises like this would become the norm in the increasingly volatile Tan group.

As for today’s LT Group annual stockholders’ meeting, it does look like Michael Tan will go on to serve one more year as its president and chief operating officer. We hear this will be a one-year transition period during which everyone will prepare to turn the company’s reins over to Lucio “Hun Hun” Tan III, the grandson of the taipan, and the son of the late Lucio “Bong” Jr.Of course, knowing how… uhm… “dynamic” this group is, who knows whether this transition period will actually last an entire year… or… maybe a lot less? Abangan!

—Daxim L. Lucas

Big income, big taxes

Having celebrated its 16th founding anniversary a couple of weeks ago, the law firm headed by University of Santo Tomas law dean Nilo Divina has amassed an impressive roster of corporate clients, so much so that it apparently pays some of the most taxes in its industry.

According to our sources among auditing and tax practitioners, Divina Law last month paid almost P160 million in taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue for the 2021 tax year.

The company itself—which is the go-to firm for a number of conglomerates which are struggling with sticky legal issues—paid over P85 million in withholding taxes and value-added tax for last year’s operations.

Divina himself, meanwhile, paid over P72 million in income and value-added taxes.

Now, that’s what you call a profitable law practice. Which is just as well because the firm needs all the earnings it can get to pay for its growing roster of lawyers.

It recently announced a 100-percent passing rate for all of its 14 previously under bar lawyers, six of whom were recognized for passing the bar “with excellent and exemplary performance.” One of them, Danica Mae Godornes, was one of 14 newly minted lawyers from over 8,200 examinees who obtained a grade higher than 90 percent, while five of them had examination grades of over 85 percent.

Corporate clients are, of course, hoping that such an impressive roster will continue translating to wins for them on the legal battlefield going forward.

—Daxim L. Lucas INQ
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