John Lim Gokongwei Jr. (traditional Chinese: 吳奕輝; simplified Chinese: 吴奕辉; pinyin: Wú Yìhuī; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gô͘ E̍k-hui; 11 August 1926 – 9 November 2019) was a Filipino billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He had holdings in telecommunications, financial services, petrochemicals, power generation, aviation, food, beverage, and livestock farming.
Gokongwei was born in China to John Gokongwei Sr. and Juanita Márquez Lim. His father was a scion of a wealthy Cebu-based family with ancestral ties to China's Southern Fujian province. His great-grandfather (1859-1921; simplified Chinese: 吴文𬶐; traditional Chinese: 吳文鮡; pinyin: Wú Wénzhào; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gô͘ Bûnthiâu), a young peddler from China, was Hispanized as Pedro Singson Gotiaoco (simplified Chinese: 吴𬶐哥; traditional Chinese: 吳鮡哥; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gô͘-thiâu-ko) and became one of the Philippines' most prominent Chinese Filipinos.
Gokongwei attended the University of San Carlos for primary school (graduating valedictorian) and high school.
The family fortune was lost after the death of his father. Gokongwei was 13 years old at the time. He initially supported his family by peddling items along the streets of Cebu from his bicycle. Between the ages of 17 and 19, he traded using a wooden boat, taking his goods to Dalahican, Lucena by sea, and then to Manila by truck.
After the Second World War, he started his own company called Amasia Trading, which imported flour, onions, fruits, used clothing, old newspapers and magazines from the United States.
In the early 1950s, along with his brothers and sisters who returned from China, he started to import cigarettes and whiskey too. By 1957, seeing that trading would always have low margins and would always be dependent on government policies, the family concern shifted towards manufacturing. With a loan of 500 thousand pesos from Albino Sycip, then chairman of China Bank, and Dee K. Chiong, he started a corn milling plant producing glucose and corn starch. The company was named Universal Corn Products (which later evolved into Universal Robina Corporation). San Miguel Corporation was a big customer of theirs.
In 1961, he established Consolidated Food Corporation (later known as CFC Corporation, which later merged with Universal Robina Corporation) launched its instant coffee brand Blend 45.
In 1977, Gokongwei earned his MBA from De La Salle University. A decade later, he attended a 14-week advanced management program at Harvard.
In November 1990, Gokongwei incorporated JG Summit Holdings as his publicly-listed holding company. In March 1996, Cebu Pacific Air began operations. In 2010, the airline underwent major refleeting with a $3 billion order with Airbus. From 2003, his telecom company Digital Telecommunications Philippines spent nearly $800 million for its mobile carrier, Sun Cellular which is the 3rd largest mobile operator in the Philippines at that time before selling to the PLDT group for $1.7 billion. He attempted a $1 billion takeover of United Industrial Corporation Ltd (UIC), a property giant from Singapore of which he owned in excess of 30%. UIC controls Singapore Land, one of the biggest property landlords in Singapore.
In 2013, his company bought the stake of San Miguel Corporation in MERALCO, the largest power distributor in the country, for close to $1.8 billion. In July 2014, Universal Robina acquired Griffin's Foods from Pacific Equity Partners, a New Zealand food company for $609 million.
He also owned Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. and Robinsons Land Corporation.
The Gokongwei family controls over $20 billion of combined market capitalization for all the companies they own.
In February 2008, Forbes Asia magazine's first Heroes of Philanthropy list included four Filipinos – Gokongwei, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Ramón del Rosario Jr. and Oscar López. The list was composed of four philanthropists each from 13 selected countries and territories in Asia.
On 29 August 2007, at the Ateneo de Manila University, Gokongwei's biography, John L. Gokongwei Jr.: The Path of Entrepreneurship, by the University's Dr. Marites A. Khanser, was launched, and it narrated the "riches-to-rags-to-riches" story of the tai-pan. Gokongwei stated that entrepreneurship is a way out of poverty. Khanser's book also enumerated the Nine Rules of business success that Gokongwei followed since he was still a young businessman. In 2002 Gokongwei donated P200-million to the undergraduate school of management. He also gave donations to University of San Carlos, Xavier School, De La Salle University, Sacred Heart School and Immaculate Conception Academy.
He was married to Elizabeth Yu (1934-2019) and had six children (1 son and 5 daughters) - Lisa, Robina, Lance, Faith, Hope and Marcia. All his children play an active role in the Gokongwei group. His only son, Lance Gokongwei, currently leads the group as President and CEO of JG Summit.
Gokongwei was a distant relative of Andrew Gotianun Sr. Gokongwei's great-grandfather was a half brother of Gotianun's grandfather.
Gokongwei died in Manila on November 9, 2019 at the age of 93. Exactly one week after his death, his widow Elizabeth Yu Gokongwei died at age of 85.