Henry Sy, Sr. (October 15, 1924— ) is a self-made Chinese-Filipino businessman who is founder and head of the SM Group of Companies. He is generally acknowledged to be the richest man in the Philippines with an estimated net worth of US$12.7 billion according to Forbes. From humble beginnings, he went on to sell shoes and set up a store called Shoemart an enterprise that would eventually turn into the largest retailer and mall developer in the country. His commercial interests have since expanded and he has diversified into many other businesses including banking, residential and leisure development, mining, and power generation.
Henry Sy was born Sy Chi Sieng (literally "to reach for ultimate success") to father Sy Xiu Shi and mother Wu She Wang in the village of Hong Xi in the town of Longhu in Jinjiang near Xiamen in Fujian province China. At the age of twelve Henry Sy immigrated to the Philippines to join his father who had migrated earlier looking for better opportunities. Henry found his father struggling to make a living in Manila. He helped his father sell basic necessities like rice, sardines, and soap from a couple of grocery stores. After World War II with one of their stores burned down and the other looted, his father decided to go back to China, but Henry decided to stay.
He started selling shoes in Carriedo an area in Manila at the time with lots of foot traffic opening three stores in quick succession: Plaza (1946), Paris (1947), and Park Avenue (1948). He would later open Shoemart (1958), a name he'd continue to use for easier recall. His first department store would later follow in 1972 located in Quiapo. The move that would catapult Henry Sy into the top rung of success, however, would be his entry into mall development. The opening of SM City North EDSA in the mid-1980s in Quezon City and a little later the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong would mark the beginning of a string of mall openings that would make him the unquestioned mall magnate and leader in retail development in the country. The model of simple wide open spaces and air-conditioned malls he introduced were on a scale people hadn't seen before. People took to them and the concept of malling entered into the Filipino lexicon. In November 2007, the SM Mall of Asia opened, at the time Henry Sy's and the country's largest, and one of the largest in the world.
In 2012, the SM Group has 42 malls in the Philippines with the number expected to increase to 46 by the end of the year. It also has 5 malls in China with 3 in development. The group had 173 retail outlets at the beginning of the year: SM Department Store (42), SaveMore (68), SM Supermarket (33), SM Hypermart(30) with more being added monthly.
SM Investments Corporation (SMIC) is Henry Sy's main holding company. His 61% controlling interest in March 2012 had an estimated worth of around PHP241.4 billion or US$5.6 billion. SM Prime Holdings (SMPH) is the mall development arm of the SM Group. SM Development Corporation (SMDC) is involved in condominium and resort development. BDO Unibank (BDO) also known as Banco de Oro is one of the Philippines' largest banks. Henry Sy's family also has control of China Banking Corporation, Belle Corporation, Highlands Prime Inc., and significant stakes in Atlas Mining, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, and a number of other companies.