Why Filipino Billionaire Lucio Tan Still Uses Old School Nokia Phones

Lucio Tan

Despite having the financial capabilities to buy almost anything in the world, Lucio Tan, one of the Philippines’ billionaires, still uses old school Nokia phones.

The 86-year-old entrepreneur, who has an estimated net worth of $2 billion, was reportedly spotted by local media carrying old school Nokia phones in his pockets in recent years, according to South China Morning Post.

In 2017, the Philippine Star did a profile on Tan for his 83rd birthday, where he wished to have an “Easy, easy life.” Now that his wish has been fulfilled, he enjoys the simple things in life.

As PhilStar noted, he walks without help, does not use reading glasses and writes down things he wants to remember on pieces of paper. He owns four identical vintage Nokia phones and carries them around in his pocket.


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PAL @ 75 FUN FACT Did you know that @flypal chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lucio Tan is a very humble man despite being very wealthy? The simple and humble tycoon sometimes flies Mabuhay (Business) Class and usually flies Fiesta (Economy) Class most of the time, carrying an SM shopping bag, not a branded leather suitcase. But he only takes business class if economy class is fully booked. He abhors delayed flights. One instance is when businessman J. Castro of Kylemed Group of Companies travelled with his wife on PAL’s newly-reconfigured Mabuhay Class in the Boeing 747-400 (retired in 2014), the reconfigured seats malfunctioned and when they wanted to be reseated, Tan offered his functioning seats to them, rather than offload them to avoid the airline losing money. He then sat at the malfunctioned seats upright for 12 hours to Manila, scribbling on a yellow of some plans and used a plane pillow to lie against the wall while sleeping, like what any economy class passenger would do. On some flights, when he and his executives travel, he would sit in Fiesta Class while the executives use Mabuhay. When one subordinate tries to convince him to move to business class, he says “when we land, we will arrive at the same place”. Tan himself would ride the bus with his employees rather than have a chauffeur, or drive an old obsolete car. And he always uses an old cellphone. This is why everyone should really admire him. Rich people who stay humble and get along with others are the real rich people. #PhilippineAirlines #flypal #PAL75 #pal75thanniversary #LucioTan

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Tan, also known as “El Kapitan” by people close to him, was born in Fujian Province, China on July 17, 1933, according to Britannica. His family later moved to Cebu City, Philippines.

He is the eldest of his eight siblings. Before becoming a billionaire, Tan worked as a janitor at a cigarette factory while studying chemical engineering at the Far Eastern University in Manila.

Tan was later promoted as a tobacco “cook,” which gave him the responsibility of regulating the product mix at the cigarette factory.

In 1966, he founded Fortune Tobacco Corp. and in 1982, he established Asia Brewery, which was the only brewery at the time that could compete with San Miguel. He rose through the ranks and later became the founder and chairman of LT Group — colloquially called Lucio Tan Group. His company assumed management control of Philippine Airlines in September 2014.

Tan, whose hobby includes playing golf at 4 a.m., proudly sponsors education. The billionaire sends 1,000 students to China every year and allocates funds to help build schoolhouses. He also founded the non-profit Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education (FUSE).

However, in 2017, Tan faced accusations from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of tax evasion, amounting to $600 million of unpaid taxes but was later cleared.

Feature Image via U.S. Embassy in the Philipines

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