Enrique Razon's Global Ties, Wealth
by Richard Read
The powerful head of a company picked by Port of Portland officials to lease Oregon's only container terminal could produce just what they want: better global connections to boost business.
Enrique "Ricky" Razon Jr., chairman of International Container Terminal Services Inc., is the Philippines' eighth richest man, worth an estimated $620 million. Tall and trim in his 40s, Razon has quietly toured Portland's Terminal 6 and hosted Port officials in the Philippines.
Razon recently sold the Manila Standard Today and invested $100 million in a controversial casino project, saying gambling had brighter prospects than newspapers. A friend of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's husband, Razon is rapidly expanding his global ports empire. Operating Terminal 6, the Columbia River container yard, would be his company's first U.S. venture.
"I just realized that I'm not for the media," Razon told reporters last month, confirming he'd sold the newspaper known for backing Arroyo's administration. "I would rather focus on the industry that is growing."
Twenty-four years after its People Power revolution, critics say the Philippines, like a miniature version of Russia, survives as an oligarchy. If as they say, 100 families control the Southeast Asian nation's political and economic spheres, Ricky Razon's clan ranks high among them.
Razon, a married father of two, inherited the port-management company from his late father, Enrique "Pocholo" Razon. The younger Razon took ICTSI global, providing container services in ports worldwide.
The company leases port terminals long-term, investing and expanding them. Port of Portland commissioners will consider the Terminal 6 lease proposal during a public meeting at 9 a.m. May 12 at Port headquarters, 7200 N.E. Airport Way.
Port managers say a private company could do better marketing and operating much of the 386-acre container terminal, which has struggled to retain shipping lines due to its 100-mile distance from the Pacific Ocean. On Tuesday, the head of the union at Terminal 6 endorsed the 25-year lease to Razon's company.
"Why wouldn't we open our arms up if they're going to bring business to the region?" asked Jeffery Smith, , president of International Longshore Warehouse Union Local 8.
Port managers defended their decision to negotiate directly with Razon's company instead of taking competitive bids. Ten companies qualified for a lease of 50 years or more that was contemplated during an earlier round suspended in 2008 due to the recession, said Sam Ruda, Port director of marine and industrial development.
Negotiations with a single company are normal practice, he said, in Portland and other ports.
Ruda said he and Bill Wyatt, the Port's executive director, visited Razon and his management team in Manila, coming away impressed by the chief executive and his business. Razon arranged for a helicopter to fly the Port managers over his operations in Subic Bay.
"You can tell immediately that he's a global player," Ruda said. "He's extremely pragmatic ... very flawless English, highly educated."
A golfer who backs golf events in the Philippines, Razon knew all about Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, the course on Oregon's south coast. A gift from Razon renovated a sports center at De La Salle University-Manila that bears his father's name.
Until recently, Razon held a 30 percent stake in the Philippines National Grid Corp., a giant power transmission company. He sold that interest for a reported $350 million to Henry Sy Jr., son of retail magnate Henry Sy, whom Forbes lists as the nation's richest man. But Razon said he planned to invest more in the energy business.
In April Razon announced he had acquired a controlling stake in Bloombury Investment Holdings Inc., one of four companies with casino licenses for a planned gaming and entertainment complex at Manila Bay. The Philippines government is backing the $15 billion Las Vegas-style project to compete with casino resorts in Macau, Singapore and other Asian cities.
Activists oppose the development, calling on President Arroyo, chief occupant of Manila's Malacanang Palace, to stop it. Fernando Hicap, who heads Pamalakaya, the National Federation of Fisherfolk Organizations, calls the project a "giant gambling escapade of Malacanang and its cherished cronies."
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