Zobel de Ayala Family

Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz - Image from Filipinas Heritage Library Website

The Zobel de Ayalas are a prominent landed family in the Philippines of Spanish and Danish-German ancestry who are behind the Ayala Group of Companies. The Zobel de Ayala family's authority stems primarily from their holding company Mermac Inc., which holds a controlling interest in the publicly traded Ayala Corporation one of the largest corporations in the country and the holding company for the Ayala Group. A leading Philippine conglomerate, the group has interests in real estate development, banking, telecommunications, water utilities, electronics, and car dealerships. Counting only the value of Mermac Inc.'s stake in Ayala Corporation in May 2012 and recent sales, the Zobel de Ayala family has a net worth in excess of US$3.2 billion although with Mercedes Zobel McMicking's passing it remains unclear if any single member of the family is a billionaire.

The marriage in 1876 of the talented Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz to the heiress Maria Trinidad Roxas de Ayala connected the Zobel name to the legacy established by the Roxas and Ayala families in the Philippines. The Ayala line is said to descend from a past king of Spain. The union produced five children: Fernando Antonio, twins Enrique and Alfonso, Margarita, and Gloria. Alfonso and Gloria would die while still young. Fernando Antonio remained a bachelor.

Enrique Zobel de Ayala - Image from Filipinas Heritage Library Website

In 1901 Jacobo's and Maria Trinidad's son Enrique Zobel de Ayala married first cousin Consuelo Roxas de Ayala. They would have three children: Jacobo, Alfonso and Mercedes. Consuelo died in 1908 due to a cholera epidemic. Three years later Enrique remarried. With Fermina Montojo, Enrique had four children: Matilde, Consuelo, Gloria, and Fernando. Fernando would grow up to be a noted abstract painter. It is the descendants of Enrique's children with Consuelo, however, who as heirs of the Roxas de Ayala land in Makati and the bulk of the family's later fortune are currently most closely identified with the Zobel de Ayala name.

Standing (left to right): Javier Nepomuceno, Alfredo Melian, Jaime Velasquez, Jaime Zobel, Salvador Lorayes. Seated (left to right): Fernando Zobel y Montojo, Alfonso Zobel, Joseph McMicking, Enrique "Enzo" Zobel - Image from Ayala Corporation Website.

Despite its prominence and wealth, the fate of the Zobel de Ayala family's fortunes were severely threatened and reached a precarious low during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during World War II. With the family's assets frozen, and the death, destruction and food shortages caused by the war, the family took refuge in their family hacienda in Batangas. Enrique died in 1943 worried that the work of his forbears had been for naught. A new era in the family's fortunes, however, would start soon after the end of the war spearheaded by Mercedes' husband Joseph McMicking who would mastermind the planning and development of the Zobel de Ayala family's vast tract of land in Makati turning it into the country's premier business district. McMicking would be aided by Jacobo's only son Enrique Jacobo Emilio Olgado "EZ" or "Enzo" Zobel de Ayala and one of Alfonso's three children, son Jaime Zobel de Ayala.

Standing (left to right): Sofia Elizalde, Monica Pla, Cristina Suarez de Puga, Patricia Halffter, Iñigo Zobel, Fernando Zobel, Jaime Augusto Zobel. Seated (left to right): Beatriz Susana Zobel, Maria de las Mercedes Zobel, Mercedes Zobel McMicking, Jaime Zobel, Alfonso Zobel, Javier Nepomuceno - Image from Ayala Corporation Website.

Two out of Jaime's seven children, sons Jaime Augusto and Fernando, are now the most public face of the family in their roles as chief executive officer and chairman, and president and chief operating officer respectively of Ayala Corporation. With the passing of childless Mercedes Zobel McMicking in late 2005, and the distribution of her assets to her nieces and nephews, however, Enrique Jacobo's two surviving children Iñigo and Mercedes likely have the largest individual shares of the Zobel de Ayala fortune although whether this is mainly in the form of shares in Mermac Inc., and therefore Ayala Corporation which is led by their cousins, or other assets is unclear. Recently, Iñigo Zobel partnered with Roberto Ongpin and Joselito Campos through a holding firm Top Frontier Investment Holdings Inc. and, with other entities allied with Ongpin, took a controlling bloc of shares in San Miguel Corporation.

Companies in the Ayala Group include Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Globe Telecom Inc. (GLO), Manila Water Company Inc. (MWC), Integrated Microelectronics Inc., Azalea Technology Investments Inc., LiveIt Investments Ltd., Ayala Automotive Holdings Corporation, Honda Cars Makati Inc., Isuzu Automotive Dealership Inc., AG Holdings Ltd., and Ayala Foundation Inc.