Sytin; 51: Subic Hotel attack kills tycoon in the making
Dominic Sytin gained prominence in the early 2000s when he entered the used-vehicle import scene, bringing in used right-hand-drive cars, vans and sport utility vehicles through Subic Bay Freeport and converting them to left-hand-drive units.
His business model was immediately welcomed by consumers but assailed by established industry players.
“I was called a smuggler by the media every day, but what they didn’t report were the poor barangays around the country that could now afford to buy ambulances for only P100,000 or sometimes less,” Sytin said in an interview a few years ago.
On Wednesday, at 7 p.m., Sytin, 51, was shot dead at Lighthouse Marina Resort in Subic Bay Freeport.
The gunman waited for an hour outside the hotel until Sytin emerged from his Audi sedan with a driver-security aide and pumped bullets into the trader’s head, chest and foot.
Sytin died on the spot. His security aide was wounded.
After the attack, the gunman, who covered his face with a handkerchief, walked casually to a motorcycle and fled.
Sytin was the founder and CEO of United Auctioneers Inc., a Subic-based company that auctions off trucks and heavy equipment.
An alumnus of the University of the Philippines (UP), Sytin was a campaign contributor to politicians, among them senators, and a benefactor to sports.
In the interview, Sytin said the vilification campaign against him was funded by automakers whose sales were suffering as a result of his business.
“We had farmers and small entrepreneurs thanking us because they could suddenly afford to buy delivery vans for only P150,000,” he said.
“And the conversions [from right- to left-hand-drive vehicles] were safe. [There were] no documented accidents as they claimed.”
After a few years, Sytin’s enterprise has grown into an empire that includes the distributorship of Chinese truck maker Foton, a power generation project in Bukidnon, a mobile phone distributorship, and a resort hotel in Subic Bay Freeport.
He had planned to consolidate these businesses under one listed company.
“I want all our family businesses to eventually be under one holding firm that’s transparent,” he said, explaining his rationale for acquiring the LMG Chemicals shell company late last year.
He wasn’t exaggerating when he described United Auctioneers as “bigger.” It imports used heavy equipment from Japan and holds auctions every two months—selling as many as 2,500 units over five days—with cement mixers and industrial trucks going for as low as P600,000.
Farmers in slippers
“We have farmers in shorts and slippers coming in to buy trucks, and businessmen in barong tagalog from large construction corporations buying entire lots from us,” he said.
“And we perform an important service because similar brand-new units would take months to import because they’re not held in stock by distributors locally.”
Early this year, Sytin opened a branch in Davao City, which would later be selling 500 units periodically to businessmen.
“Mindanao is booming, but some buyers can’t come to Subic for the auctions. But they can easily go to Davao,” he said, ahead of the branch inauguration.
Sytin was a patron of sports, pouring in funds for the UP women’s volleyball team (which recently won a key tournament) and bankrolling the Foton volleyball team in the professional league.
“Basketball is already a crowded space for corporate sponsors,” he said. “Volleyball has a big future in the Philippines … When it grows, we grow with it.”
He was a voracious consumer of online news and was adamant about downloading the tablet version of the Inquirer newspaper, where his companies advertise daily.
“I want to see the layout of the stories on the newspaper to see their placement on the page, because that tells me which stories the editors think are important,” he said.
As news of his murder spread on Thursday, one of the country’s richest business leaders said in a text message: “He was a progressive and promising guy. Sayang. He could have been a tycoon soon.”
The Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce and senators condemned the killing.
Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said senators would press the Philippine National Police at plenary discussions on its budget to go after Sytin’s killer.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto described Sytin as a “silent worker for Philippine progress” and his good friend. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND JOANNA AGLIBOT
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