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ABS-CBN 'visionary' Gabby Lopez and his journey to the top

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Sep 25, 2020 10:34 pm Updated Sep 25, 2020 10:02 pm

Those familiar with local TV history know all too well that Gabby Lopez is synonymous with ABS-CBN. Not in patches but from the 90s to the 2010s, Lopez, 68, has served as ABS-CBN's chairman and CEO while being interim president in years between. He has since been the Kapamilya network's face, brain, and muscle to have launched ABS-CBN into more than just a media powerhouse. As to how and why ABS-CBN is what it is today, many—business leaders and celebrities alike—attribute to Gabby Lopez.

Lopez left his CEO post in 2013, opting to stay as Chairman Emeritus. A key figure in ABS-CBN's franchise fight mid this year that would end in a denial, he stepped down from his most recent post Thursday morning. He also vacated his directorial post at ABS-CBN Holdings Corporation, Sky Vision Corporation, and Rockwell Land Corporation. He remains a company stockholder with 769,960 shares.

Despite his recent move, ABS-CBN "Sir Gabby" is still hailed by the network and Philippine mass media onlookers as a visionary—someone whose career might be worth, as what the C in ABS-CBN stands for, chronicling.

Early years

Gabby comes from the influential Lopezes in Jaro, Iloilo. As the family panganay, he would easily follow in the footsteps of his dad Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr.. In 1956, at six, he already lived to see his grandfather/ then-Manila Chronicle head Eugenio Lopez Sr. and uncle/ then-Vice President Fernando Lopez found Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN).

The Lopezes would acquire Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) to give birth to ABS-CBN. The merger would become the country's radio leader until the 60s and a TV pioneer until the 70s. Before then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos seized it in September 1972, it already had two television stations and seven radio stations in Manila, with 14 radio stations and three television stations in the province.

College

While his dad Geny busied himself setting up ABS-CBN up to his eventual imprisonment, Gabby and his eight other siblings (including the late Gina Lopez) were in school. Gabby attended Bowdoin College in Maine from 1970 to 1974, earning a political science degree. He then pursued a Master's degree in business administration at the Harvard Business School from 1978 to 1980.

Early ABS-CBN work

Lopez' career began in banking. He worked at San Francisco, California-based Crocker National Bank as the bank’s assistant vice president for back-office processing.

He came back to the Philippines in 1986, post-Martial Law, working as ABS-CBN's finance director. He then took over as the network's general manager the following year. He then became president/CEO in 1993.

The reign

Picking up the pieces during the post-Marcos era, Lopez steered ABS-CBN to its most glorious time. He became CEO from 1993 to 2013 and chairman of the board from 1997 to 2018. He served as president from 1993 to 1997, and again from 2006 to 2008.

During Lopez' incumbency, ABS-CBN soared and diversified globally. It launched The Filipino Channel in 1994 and its cable news channel ANC in 1996. In 1999, it boasted of a 93% TV household reach and a network of 35 TV stations and 2,000 affiliates.

Speaking of diversifying the business, Lopez also worked on building its cable and telecommunications brand via SkyCable and BayanTel.

In his retirement, Lopez was succeeded by Charo Santos-Concio and his cousin Mark Lopez as CEO and chairman, respectively.

Lopez has garnered special awards to adorn his fruitful career, including the 22nd Golden Dove Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the broadcast industry and the 9th Araw Values Awards Tanglaw ng Araw award "for promoting good Filipino values."

Unsurprisingly, Lopez' recent departure from his chairman emeritus role has had the board praising him in a published letter.

“We thank him for his dedication and leadership in expanding and transforming ABS-CBN beyond television through the years. Just like his father, Eugenio ‘Kapitan Geny’ Lopez Jr., Gabby is a visionary and a compassionate leader driven by his love for the Philippines and the Filipino people. He would always tell the men and women of ABS-CBN that being a part of the network is not a job, but a calling,” the board said.