The freshly-minted boss of the Lopez business group always felt insecure in the company of his peers in the top rung of the local business scene.
But bilyonaryo Fedrico “Piki” Lopez has no regrets about leaving Cambridge too soon three decades ago because it made him a better manager and a more enlightened person.
“You’ll find this odd but despite the warmth I’ve always experienced from fellow businessmen and the business organizations I belong to, I’ve always felt like an outsider or outlier in the world of Philippine business,” said Lopez in his acceptance speech as Management Man of the Year of MAP (Management Association of the Philippines).
“Part of this likely stems from a lingering regret I’ve harbored that I never finished my Harvard MBA. After I prematurely left campus in 1988 and joined my father in the task of rebuilding a near-bankrupt FPH (First Philippine Holdings), I thought I’d return to complete my studies after three to four years in the business world,” he added.
Lopez is a BA (cum laude) from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in Economics and International Relations.
Lopez, who admitted to getting bored with classes which showed in his “unexceptional grades and academic struggles”, said working alongside his father, Oscar Lopez, made him forget about Harvard.
“The situations I encountered at work convinced me that immersion in the world of real-life business was better for my development than interrupting it with another year of school. I never resolved whether I’d done the right thing and spent the last 33 years without the three letters ‘MBA’ embossed on my CV and wondering whether I’d just squandered an opportunity not available to many,” Lopez said.
Lopez said he was blessed to have been given an active role or a front-row seat to the Lopez group’s defining moments in the last three decades such as:
• the birth of the Philippine natural gas industry with Malampaya, its impending sunset, and of course the eventual birth of a new one involving LNG (liquefied natural gas).
• The privatization and deregulation of the country’s power industry following the passage of EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).
• The acquisition and transformation of world geothermal leader Energy Development Corporation.
• The near-death experience of the Lopez group in 1999-2009 when, because of massive debts and regulatory problems, its stock price plummeted to 8 centavos per share in 2002 from a high of P15.55 in 1993.
• The turnaround and success of our North Luzon Expressway toll road project in 2005.
• The group’s resuscitation following the sale of MNTC (Manila North Tollways Corp). in August 2008 and the sale of Meralco to Salim-Metro Pacific and JG Summit in 2009.
“After today, thanks to MAP, the three letters ‘MMY’ more than make up for that and resolve this unfinished goal in my mind once and for all,” said Lopez.
He said his father, a Harvard alumni and MMY awardee, was a man of few words and was thrifty with giving out praise.
“He rarely ever displays his approval (only his disapproval, and on that we’d get an earful) but he led us powerfully through his simplicity and his example,” Lopez said.
“No one has influenced me and what First Philippine Holdings (FPH) is today more than him: his values, discipline, love for nature, zest for learning, his passion for social justice and his zeal for health and wellness,” he added
The 59-year old scuba diver was selected MMY for his passionate push towards a low-carbon economy, for steering FPH (where he is chairman and CEO) to new heights and “for setting an example for Filipino managers through a track record of integrity, entrepreneurial excellence, professional competence and great leadership in his management career.”