Gabby's resignation from ABS-CBN paves way for next generation Lopezes to take up new challenge

Gabby's resignation from ABS-CBN paves way for next generation Lopezes to take up new challenge

MANILA, Philippines—Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, the media mogul at the center of President Rodrigo Duterte’s devastating attacks on ABS-CBN Corp., resigned from the company on Thursday (Sept. 24), giving the next generation of leaders a free hand in navigating a crisis triggered by the loss of its franchise in the middle of a pandemic.

The 68-year-old Lopez, chair emeritus and board director of ABS-CBN, cited personal reasons in stepping down from the media giant his father, Eugenio Lopez Jr., founded in the 1950s and nurtured into becoming the country’s biggest TV network.

The resignation was announced after ABS-CBN’s annual meeting on Thursday.

Lopez also left directorships in the family’s ABS-CBN Holdings Corp., Sky Vision Corp., Sky Cable Corp., First Philippine Holdings Corp., First Gen Corp., and Rockwell Land Corp.

“We respect his decision, offer him our full support, and express our sincerest gratitude for the tradition of innovation, nationalism, and public service that he cultivated in the minds and hearts of all Kapamilyas, past and present,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.

“We shall continue the journey that he and his father began as we remain in the service of the Filipino,” ABS-CBN said, adding that Lopez will be replaced by company lawyer Mario Luza Bautista on the board.

Associates close to the family and former and current employees described Lopez as a visionary leader who modernized ABS-CBN, where he spent 35 years, serving as the company’s CEO and later as chair.

He oversaw ABS-CBN’s diversification from TV broadcasting that turned the company into a multimedia conglomerate.

Under his watch, ABS-CBN took pioneering steps in digital television, eventually reaching millions of viewers across the country. The company also expanded its international business, launched broadband and satellite TV through SkyCable Corp. and the iWant internet TV service.

Not all ventures were a success, though. Its ambitious telco venture with Globe Telecom, called ABS-CBN Mobile, failed in 2018 after years of losses.

Known as “EL3” to employees, Lopez was ABS-CBN’s biggest champion even within the boardroom.

During a meeting several years ago, Lopez strongly rejected a proposal made by a family member to sell ABS-CBN because it was making less money than some of the group’s more profitable business units, a source privy to the discussion told the Inquirer.

Lopez and ABS-CBN came under attack during the Duterte administration.

The President accused him Lopez of greed for failing to air some of his political ads during the 2016 elections even as free speech advocates dismissed this as an attempt to gain leverage over a powerful media group.

As Duterte ramped up threats to shut down ABS-CBN, Lopez in 2018 handed over the reins to his younger cousins Carlo Katigbak and Martin “Mark” Lopez, who now serve as the company’s CEO and chair.

Lopez assumed the ceremonial title of chair emeritus—a move observers said might deflect attacks on ABS-CBN as it sought a new 25-year broadcast franchise.

Even then, the House of Representatives sat on ABS-CBN’s bid for franchise renewal until it expired last May 4.

This allowed the National Telecommunications Commission to immediately order the shutdown of ABS-CBN’s free-to-air broadcasts— cutting off millions of viewers and listeners—and later its satellite and digital TV services.

Last Sept. 10, the NTC ordered the recall of ABS-CBN’s broadcast frequencies.

Duterte’s allies in the House killed the application on July 10 after marathon hearings that failed to prove Lopez, a dual-citizen, is not a Filipino or the company violated tax, securities and labor laws.

ABS-CBN laid off nearly 5,000 workers as a result of its franchise loss and shuttered business divisions, including much of its regional news operations.

Lopez is stepping down as lawmakers said they will continue to investigate the company, including land titles of its sprawling headquarters in Quezon City that house valuable transmission assets.

They questioned how the Lopezes recovered the property after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who seized the network in 1972, was toppled by the People Power revolt in 1986.

Following the loss of its franchise, ABS-CBN continues to operate pay television and remains present through its online channels and on social media. It also retains ownership over a vast library of content, including popular movies and TV shows.

During the network’s annual meeting on Thursday, Katigbak warned “difficult times” will continue through 2020.

But he said the company will continue to produce entertainment and news content to reach viewers across the platforms available to it.

“It is with confidence that we commit to you, our dear shareholders, that we will come out of this crisis a better, stronger, and more successful company,” Katigbak said.

“It will be a difficult journey until that time, but our history has shown that ABS-CBN’s burning passion for service to the Filipino cannot be extinguished,” he added.

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