“It's not that I went from love motels to Christian hotels; I'd say it's my long road to obedience,” said Wyden King, the 62-year-old chairman and president of Legend Hotels International Corporation (LHI), operator of The Legend Villas hotel in Mandaluyong City.
In the late 80s and the early 90s, King was operating another type of establishment—the Anito Hotel, known for short-time lodging for all kinds of rendezvous. In its heyday, the motel chain saw an average of 11,000 visitors daily, and even earned up to P2 million ($43,056.94) in gross sales daily across its 14 branches.
But by 1994, King wanted to leave it all behind in order to pursue God's will for his life.
Heir to a motel chain empire
It was considered an unprecedented move; after all, King is one of the heirs to the motel chain empire established by his father Angelo King, known as “The Motel King of the Philippines.” This empire was composed of the Anito and the Victoria Court motel chains, the latter inherited by King's older brother, Archimedes “Archie” King, who passed away in 2015.
Perhaps as is fitting for a motel chain heir, King lived an exciting lifestyle. In his younger years, he explored different beliefs, from New Age to Zen Buddhism, among a host of different spiritual wellness practices. He also had various extra-marital affairs, all of which were kept secret from his family.
As early as 1986, though, King said there was a prodding “to surrender his life to God.” However, it took him another six years, in 1992, before he finally accepted Jesus Christ into his life and became a full-fledged Born Again Christian.
With this came a lot of changes. For one, King ended his extra-marital affairs and rekindled his relationship with his wife. Then, he bid farewell to the "unrighteous business practices" which enabled Anito Hotel to dominate the segment. “I used to bribe a lot of local government officials so that they can either promote our business, or turn a blind eye every time we failed to pay our taxes on time,” he recalled.
By 1994, King said that the Lord impressed upon him that he should leave the motel chain business for good. But it was not that easy.
‘For the Glory of God’
“I couldn't say that I wasn't accountable for what was going on inside the premises. The hotel itself was really designed to promote illicit affairs, may it be marital or pre-marital,” said King. “No matter how I went about it, I was promoting immorality, and it went against my beliefs at the time,” he recalled.
So King put the business up for sale in 1996. There were a lot of potential buyers, but King was not entirely happy with their offers so the deals did not push through. Aside from the selling price, King also became concerned about the livelihood of his employees, around 2,000 of them, in the event he sells the business.
In 1998, King started closing up the Anito Hotel so that he can venture into other types of businesses which can be more aligned with his Christian values and principles. The first motel he closed down was the Anito Hotel in Pasay City.
After every motel closure, King would hang a white tarpaulin in front of the building which said, “Anito Hotel closed for the Glory of God.” Finally, in 2008, after 10 years of closing up shop, King was able to close down the last of the 14 branches of Anito Hotel.
"It took a long time, but I knew I had to do it. I committed myself to that promise I made to the Lord 21 years ago," recalled King.
All of his businesses are now “anchored on God-centered values,” and he believes that a business founded on Christian values and principles can still thrive and be profitable.
Between 1998 and 2008, he turned seven of his former Anito Hotel buildings into wholesome, family-oriented hotels: three Kabayan Hotels, which targets returning OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and their families; one Mabuhay Manor, which also targets returning OFWs; one Pinoy Pamilya Hotel, which targets provincial business travelers and their families; one Legend Hotel for corporate and upscale clientele; and one Park, Bed, & Breakfast, which targets motorists.
Aside from hotel chains, King now also owns a dormitory (MyPlace in Loyola Heights, Quezon City for university students from the provinces); a laundry service (Kalinisan Steam Laundry, which does bulk-washing for hotels, restaurants, and hospitals); a non-profit school (Living Angels Christian Academy, which targets low-income families); a real estate development firm (San Rafael Development); and several public wet and dry markets all over Luzon.
Pains and gains
King has transformed his businesses to fully align with his personal convictions, but it is not without its challenges.
While he was able to venture into different kinds of businesses, King admits that overall profitability still pales in comparison to the glory days of Anito Hotel. “For the past 21 years, you can say that my businesses have really been going downhill. But God wants to strengthen my character, and that would not be possible if I didn't face these struggles in business,” shared King.
Also, “It's hard to uphold righteousness in business, especially when unrighteous practices are the norm,” said King, who quipped that, based from previous experience, bribery really sped up business transactions. “But I don't do that anymore,” he added.
Another challenge for King is to get everyone on board the “God-centered values” of his companies. “Of course, there's resistance from some employees, because I really want to promote wholesome relationships,” he said, seeing that it can lead to less conflict in the workplace, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity in the process.
King does not require his employees to be Born Again Christians like himself, nor does he ask them to convert once they come on board. But part of his companies' corporate training program is gospel sharing, equipping, and kingdom-building. "I don't force it on anyone because it's a personal decision—the Lord wants it to come from their hearts," he added.
Bible verses are prominently displayed in the facilities of LHI's hotel chains, from the reception to the hotel rooms. Worship halls and prayer rooms are also available for employees, where they can hold their weekly Bible studies and worship services.
Now, at 62 years old, King still remains hands-on with his businesses, even highly involved with the equipping of his employees. “I'm just a steward of God's blessings—these things are not even mine. I don't hold on anymore to things that are temporary, because my view is now in the eternal...God himself is my reward.”