It was 1999, and with his former boss now gone—replaced by son Gabby Lopez—that Yalong joined GMA Network Inc. on the invitation of the Jimenez family.
“When Geny died, I got a call from the Jimenez family, and they offered me a job. I was initially hired as a consultant,” Yalong says.
“My job was to prepare the company for an IPO,” he says.
It may have been the new millennium, but Yalong says when he first joined GMA, the company might as well have been in the Stone Age.
“They were still using ledger manuals. Computers were only there for writing reports,” Yalong says. “Our first major expense was to buy computers. That was our first major capital expense.”
He says the Jimenez family, which owned a substantial stake in GMA, wanted to cash in on their investment at the time by selling out. “There were already talks with Manny Pangilinan when I joined the company,” he says.
Instead of a Pangilinan investment, GMA’s management team eventually set its sights on IPO cash. But getting the company’s books in order by buying a bunch of computers would not be enough to bring GMA to its full potential.
Now supported with financial soundness, Yalong says GMA’s next step at the time was to expand its network reach, especially in provinces, while at the same time building up its content portfolio.
“Up until last year, a big chunk of our earnings were earmarked for the expansion of the network,” Yalong says. The company did this while aggressively developing its talent pool by getting stars from ABS-CBN and developing its own.