Henry Sy Sr dies at 94

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – SM Group founder Henry Sy Sr died on Saturday morning, January 19. He was 94.

"Henry Sy... passed away peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning. There are no further details at the moment," his SM group said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

He was scheduled for his regular laboratory tests at the Makati Medical Center on Saturday morning, Rappler learned.

Due to old age, Sy – fondly called “Tatang” by his employees – had moved in a wheelchair for sometime now. He had been seen visiting some of his malls in a wheelchair. But he occasionally took vacations in his home in Tagaytay Highlands.  (FAST FACTS: Remembering Henry Sy)

In recent years, he turned over the day-to-day running of his businesses to his children although he remained chairman emeritus of SM Investments, one of the country's largest conglomerates.

Sy led Filipinos on the World's Billionaires List 2018, released by Forbes in March 2018. Sy has been the richest Filipino since 2005. He had a net worth of $19 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes.com magazine.  (READ: FAST FACTS: SM Investments Corporation)

Sy, a Chinese migrant, had a classic rags-to-riches story. When he was 11 years old, with just 10 centavos in his pocket and no knowledge of English, he followed his father to the Philippines. He thought his father was well-off in Manila but discovered upon his arrival in the Philippine capital that he just owned a sari-sari store in Quiapo.

The Sy family’s stores were burned down during World War II, prompting Sy’s father to return to China. Sy stood pat and looked for other business ventures, beginning with a shoe business in 1958 that evolved into Shoe Mart, and later, the SM Department Store chain that also has branches in China.

Sy also ventured into banking. The SM group has since branched out to property, gaming, and mining.  With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com