Jan Hendrik Marsman was born in 1892 and was raised and schooled as a civil engineer in the Netherlands. Hank, as he was known to friends, worked for Norit, a company specializing in the use of activated carbon for industrial refinery purposes. During the years of the First World War, he was assigned by Norit in Indonesia, known at the time as the Dutch East Indies.
Mary Angus Blythe was born in 1888 and raised in Scotland. She came to the US as a young adult and came to work for Marshall Fields, a major department store in the city of Chicago. It was in Marshall Fields that she met Nels Petersen, anSwedish-American Engineer, whom she married. Petersen brought his young wife to the Philippines where he partly-owned the Benguet Gold Mines along with two other businessmen, Judge Hauserman and Judge Bean.
Jan Hendrik Marsman came to the Philippines when he was assigned by Norit to supervise the construction of a sugar refinery in Malabon. Norit specialized in the use of activated carbon for refining purposes. In this case, the carbon was used to refine sugar. Hank was asked to stay on and manage the refinery he had built for Norit and Malabon Sugar.
Nels Petersen died of influenza in 1919 during an epidemic that killed millions worldwide. His death left Mary a young widow with gold claims in the Benguet area. Some time later, Mary Petersen and Hank Marsman met in Manila and decided to get marriedin 1922. They were convinced that their future lay in the hills and relocated to Baguio to prospect for gold.
Jan Hendrik Marsman and Mary Blythe Petersen Marsman leave the comforts and security of Manila to prospect for gold in the mountains near Baguio. The first Marsman business venture in the Philippines was in the highly risky and speculative field of mining.
After several years of prospecting, Hank and Mary Marsman organized the Itogon Mining Company in 1924. The Marsmans transform the relatively low-grade Itogon gold mine into a viable and dividend-paying project. Their proceeds allowed them to diversify their business interests into the forestry and construction industries, a natural progression for Hank's engineering knowledge.
Marsman and Company, Inc. formed to fill the necessity of establishing a trading firm to service the needs of the Marsmans' mining operations as well as those of other companies in the Baguio district. Its first office was set up along Session Road in Baguio City. The Marsmans later formed the Suyoc Consolidated Mining Company in Benguet and M.P. Tranco, Inc., the first public transportation system to service mining communities in the Mountain Province.
The Marsmans ventured out of the Mountain Province and initiated a large-scale mining development project in the Paracale-Mamburao area in the Bicol Region. They reopened gold mines formerly used by Spanish prospectors and established the United Paracale Mining Company. Their success stirred them to establish Coco Grove Inc., which became the largest placer mining operation in the Philippines, and San Mauricio Mining Company which produced the richest gold content per ton of ore compared to any mine in the country.
Marsman business ventures had grown and diversified into other fields -- engineering, insurance, air transportation, machinery, hardware, pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs. Due to these expansion activities and the growing involvement in the trading business, the organization's headquarters were moved from Baguio to Port Area, Manila. The Marsman Building in Intramuros was built to accommodate the growing work force that manned the Marsmans' various business interests. During the Japanese Occupation, the building was used as the headquarters of the Japanese Navy. After the war, the Company resumed its operations at a new location in Intramuros. The original Marsman Building still stands today and is presently owned by the Philippine government.
By 1941, the Marsmans had built one of the top business organizations in the Philippines. Its construction projects included the Nielsen Tower in the Manila Airport, one of the first airports in the country where they operated the Philippine Air Taxi Company (PATCO). This air transport service offered regular trips from Manila to Baguio as well as chartered flights to various destinations in the country.
The Soriano family later became involved in PATCO, which they later took over and developed into what is now Philippine Airlines. The original airport runway is now known as Paseo de Roxas in the heart of Makati's bustling business district while Nielsen Tower now houses the Filipinas Heritage Library where various cultural and literary events regularly take place.
The Japanese Imperial Army occupies most of the Asian region, prompting many American and European-owned businesses to relocate their operations. At this time, Marsman and Company acquired Pacific Commercial Company (PCC), the largest trading company in the Philippines. Despite the imminent outbreak of war, the Marsmans continued the distribution of various products including office equipment, foodstuffs, farming equipment, hardware, heavy equipment and pharmaceuticals, demonstrating their commitment to the Philippines.
The Second World War devastated the Marsman enterprises, which suffered losses and damages in excess of US$50 million. Not to be daunted, the Marsmans began to rebuild from the ruins after the war with the reactivation of five gold mines and the trading business. Marsman and Company represented all the major companies with interests in food, pharmaceuticals and construction.
After the Japanese army retreated, the first shipments of flour and milk into a war-ravaged Philippines were financed by the Marsmans using their personal funds and credit to bring food to starving Filipinos. Construction and engineering departments were likewise reactivated to help in the task of reconstruction. Among their accomplishments were the UP Engineering Building, the Ambuklao Hydroelectric project and the Nichols Air Base, now the domestic airport.
Walter Dumermuth, a Swiss national, was hired by Marsman and Company in 1948 to develop the company's pharmaceutical distribution. All the various businesses were undergoing expansion at this point, with Pharmaceuticals aggressively promoted by Dumermuth.
The Palawan Quicksilver Mines was established in 1954. This was a highly successful mining operation. Mercury from the mines was shipped to Japan until 1975 when the company ceased mining operations in Palawan.
The strength of the Marsman organization was put to test by the death of Jan Marsman. Mary assumed the management of the business and competently carried on with the tasks left by her husband. However, the organization was beset by problems including the repayment of loans availed of for the rehabilitation of companies during the post-war years. Three mining companies in Bicol had to be shut down and control of the Itogon-Suyoc mines was lost. Mary Marsman passed away in 1963 leaving the company under the management of able caretakers.
The Retail Trade Nationalization law, which was created to break the control foreign businesses enjoyed on Philippine retail trade, inadvertantly affected most of the Marsmans' food and equipment distribution businesses since it would necessitate setting up alliances with middlemen. This led the company to focus its resources on its Pharmaceutical distribution business. This division, begun in one of the company's warehouses in the 1940's, grew considerably, expanding into repackaging and manufacturing in the latter part of the 1970s.
The Mary Blythe Petersen Marsman Foundation, Inc. was established on March 17, 1967 four years after her death, to administer and manage the assets left in trust under the last will and testament of Mrs. Mary Marsman and to devote its income to scientific, educational and charitable purposes. The Marsman Foundation was placed in control of 50% of all the company's assets. Through the years, MFI has faithfully complied with its mandate, expanding its projects from scholarships and donations to genuine community development work including health care, livelihood and cooperative development and values formation..
The year 1968 heralded a new era for the Marsman organization when management returned to family hands under the leadership of George W. Drysdale, whose wife, Anne, is the only child of Jan and Mary Marsman. The two met at Northwestern University in the United States in 1949 and got married soon after. George Drysdale had worked for the US Steel Corporation before coming to the Philippines to work in the different
Divisions of Marsman and Company from 1954 to 1957.
Under his management, Marsman & Company, Inc. was able to free itself from all legal and financial obligations it had assumed for some of its associated mining companies. George Drysdale was instrumental in focusing the company's investments towards development, expansion and diversification into agribusiness, food processing, tours and travel, real estate and health care.
In 1950, the dreaded mosaic virus disease wiped out the Marsmans' 7,500-hectare abaca plantation in Davao. This event eventually directed the Marsmans toward bananas and in 1969, The Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) was established, one of the first banana plantations in Mindanao.
At present, MEPI produces the highest per-hectare yield in the banana industry. Since its creation in 1969, MEPI has become one of the brightest points in Philippine agriculture, a shining example of Philippine presence in the dynamic and competitive global agribusiness industry.
The Nova Vista Management and Development Corporation, established in 1971, traces its roots as far back as the 1940's when it was still an abaca plantation called the Moro Improvement and Trading Corporation. The area was converted into a coconut plantation after the widespread mosaic disease devastated the abaca plants. The coconut plantation, renamed Tagnanan Estate, Inc., was placed under CARP and was awarded to its 332 beneficiaries.
In 1992, the property was converted from a coconut plantation to a banana plantation now known as Nova Vista. In May 1999, a 180 hectare section of the plantation was spun off to create the MD Isalon Organic Banana Agri Ventures, Inc.
Camarines Minerals, Inc. (CMI) was organized in 1976 to manage and oversee the mining properties, operations and interests of the Marsman-Drysdale Group in the Bicol Region. As the holding and management company of the Group's mining interests, it controls more than 3,000 hectares of the Group's gold mining claims in the Philippines.
Marsman Tours and Travel was organized in 1979 in response to the government's call to develop the booming tourist industry. The Inbound Tours division was established when Marsman's European pharmaceutical principals suggested that the Marsmans should venture into tourism. Marsman's pharmaceutical distributors, constantly travelling throughout the Philippines, were considered to be highly knowledgeable about the country's potential tourist attractions. Encouraged to develop the country's tourism industry, Marsman and Company sought assistance from the government, which readily gave support by providing in-depth training and seminars.
The Oro Verde plantation is one of the pioneers in the Philippine mango industry. It was incorporated in 1986 as a member of MDAHI and began its commercial operations in 1997.
By 1987, Marsman & Company, Inc. had grown to become one of the country's leading trading firms. The Company's success in the pharmaceutical promotion and distribution business attracted the interest of several local and foreign investors. After ensuring that the interests of the employees, principals and stockholders were amply protected, the Board decided to accept a very attractive offer from Zuellig, a major pharmaceutical distribution firm, to acquire Marsman & Company, Inc. The new owners were granted the right to use the Marsman name for 10 years.
The sale of Marsman and Company, Inc. in 1987 paved the way for another expansion and diversification effort by the group. In 1990, Marsman's remaining businesses became known as the Marsman-Drysdale Group. After a redefinition of corporate direction, the Group focused on food-related operations which then accounted for 57% of the Group's total assets at the operating company level. The Group also continued its interests in health care by establishing the Medical and Industrial Products Division in 1990. From only three employees in 1990, the division has grown into a group of 40 dedicated, service-oriented professionals.
The acquisition of Pelican Agro-Products in 1993 allowed the Group to complement its agribusiness plantation operations with food processing capabilities. A vapor-heat treatment (VHT) facility was operated in the FTI complex in Taguig. Here, fresh carabao mangoes from the Oro Verde orchards on Guimaras Island are VHT-treated before being shipped to the Japanese market.
Marsman-Drysdale Agri Ventures, Inc. (MDAVI), incorporated March 1994, is one of only two major asparagus plantations in the country. MDAVI's asparagus and okra growing facilities received the prestigious ISO 9002 certificate on September 1999, making MDAVI the only ISO 9002 Certified asparagus packing plant in the Philippines, and possibly the world.
In 1994, the Group began operating the Mobilcom wireless communications network and, through the foresight of George Marsman Drysdale Jr., the Group invested in various telecommunications companies (Skycable, RCPI, Pocketbell and BayanTel) as well.
Also in 1994, the acquisition of Philippine Far East Agro-Products, Inc. expanded the MDG's food processing operations into fruit puree and bottling, which led to the production of Drysdale juice drinks.
The Alta Vista Agri-Ventures Corporation (AVAVC) was established in 1996. It is now a subsidiary of MDAHI engaged in producing export-quality Cavendish bananas to help Marsman-Drysdale satisfy the demand of the growing global market. The plantation was originally formed in 1994 in partnership with an Italian company, the De Nadai management, represented by Oribanex Services, Inc.
The management of the Marsman-Drysdale Group was passed onto George Marsman Drysdale when he was named Chairman and CEO of the Marsman-Drysdale Group. The son of Anne and George W. Drysdale, and grandson of the pioneering Jan and Mary Marsman, he was raised and educated in both the United States and the Philippines. He is a Juris Doctor recipient from the Stanford Law School and earned an MBA degree from the Stanford Business School. Mr. Drysdale is committed to take the Marsman-Drysdale organization to new heights of accomplishment and success.
The Group's agribusiness interests were consolidated with the establishment of Marsman-Drysdale Agribusiness Holding, Inc. (MDAHI) in 1998. This holding company coordinates the Group's various farms, creating a synergy for continued growth.
Four new banana farms were incorporated as wholly owned subsidiaries of MDAHI. These were the Marsman Drysdale Organic Farms, Inc. (MDOFI) and MD Rio Vista Agri Ventures, Inc. both in July 1999, followed by MD Isalon Organic Banana Agri Ventures, Inc. (MDIOBAVI) in August 1999 and MD Panabo Agri Ventures, Inc. in December 1999. MDOFI and MDIOBAVI were pioneering efforts in organic banana production in the Philippines. Before the year ended, another banana plantation, the MD Davao Agri Ventures, Inc. was also incorporated.
The Marsman Drysdale Biotech and Research Corporation was formed in August 1999 to focus on the nutrition as well as the pest and disease control requirements of the various farms.
The Marsman Drysdale Medical Products, Inc. was also incorporated in December 1999 after existing under the moniker of the Marsman Drysdale Group Medical Products Division since 1990. The company bested the expected transition period from division to corporation by two years and has since been consistently achieving its sales targets every year.
Two more banana farms were established in August 2000 under the umbrella of MDAHI. These were the MD Nabunturan Agri Ventures, Inc. and the MD New Corella Agri Ventures, Inc. In December 2000, SF Holdings Corporation was formed as the joint venture vehicle between MD Real Estate Corp and FTK Properties, Inc. to own and develop a property in Forbes Park, Makati.
The Marsman-Drysdale Group currently engages in the following industries, providing employment to over 3,500 Filipinos: agribusiness (cavendish bananas, asparagus, and carabao mangoes), travel and tourism, mining, property development and investment management. Significant minority investments are in telecommunications (Mobilcom andSkycable), bottling operation (Pepsi), mining (United Paragon) and financial sectors.
Committed to caring for its workers and the communities in which it operates its businesses, the Group has a role to play in the future of the Philippines. Continuously driven by the vision, mission and entrepreneurial spirit of its founders, the Marsman-Drysdale Group is aiming for industry leadership in all the various business it operates.