The Belmonte Family

The Belmonte Family

For the Belmonte family, the paper is a family business.

A legacy from the late matriarch Betty Go-Belmonte, the Star Group of Companies is now under the management of her son Miguel Belmonte. Aside from the broadsheet The Philippine STAR, he handles the other print titles: tabloids Pilipino Star Ngayon, Cebu-based Freeman and Banat, and BusinessWorld, the latest addition to the group.

Isaac, the eldest, is the head of Philippine STAR’s editorial board.

His brother Kevin, meanwhile, takes care of the digital platform, philstar.com. Aside from this, he is also a board member and a stockholder of real estate company Nuvoland Philippines.

But the three are not the only Belmontes involved in the paper. Former House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and incumbent Quezon City vice mayor Joy Belmonte also have shares across the different companies of STAR.

“(The STAR is) where all the wealth of the Belmonte family comes from,” Miguel said, adding that it is the reason no one accused his father of being corrupt despite consistently being one of the richest members of Congress.

Combined, the whole family owns only 20 percent of Philippine STAR. Since 2014, the biggest shareholder in one of the country’s biggest daily broadsheets has been Hastings Holdings, a company owned by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, also known as MVP.

For Pilipino Star Ngayon, Incorporated, which runs tabloid Pilipino Star Ngayon, and Philstar Global, which handles philstar.com, Hastings Holdings owns 80 percent of both.

“(It was a) big payday for our family when the MVP group bought the majority shares from us,” Miguel said.

MVP first offered to buy the company back in 2006, but the Belmontes did not agree on the valuation. The MVP group returned in 2009 but it was only in 2011 that MVP finally came in, first with 20 percent shares. In 2014, MVP through Hastings Holdings acquired majority shares at 51 percent.

“They just approached us. We never offered ourselves for sale. Never, not once,” he added.

Miguel said selling majority shares of the company was a family decision that in the end will benefit the STAR. The ownership of Hastings Holdings can be traced back to the PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund.

"If anybody can carry us to the next generation of news distribution, a technology company would be the perfect partner to have," he said, referring to PLDT.

Despite this, Miguel believes there will be a resurgence of print.

"No new form of media will kill an old form. Maybe it will shrink, the old ones will shrink, like what has happened. And maybe some entities will not survive. But in a world of matirang matibay (survival of the fittest), the STAR will be one of the survivors, no doubt,” he said.

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Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.

is a former House Speaker, and is a member of the Liberal Party.

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