Turks at the top: the 32 Turks on Forbes’ billionaire list

Thirty-two Turkish citizens are billionaires, according to Forbes Magazine, which has just released its annual billionaires list.

Bill Gates, who took the top spot once again, is well known to the world. As is Michael Jordan, the richest sportsperson of all time. But how well do you know the wealthy Turks on the list? We take a look at some of the biggest movers and shakers who are transforming Turkey and the wider world.

Mura Ulker

Mura UlkerUlker is the richest Turk on the list. He’s the chairman of Yildiz Holding, which owns UK-based United Biscuits (the maker of McVitie’s) and Godiva Chocolates. He has a net worth of US$4.4 billion and is ranked the 368th wealthiest person in the world. His sister, Ahsen Ozokur, a major shareholder in Yildiz, is also on the billionaires list.

Husnu Ozyegin

Fiba Holding chairman Husnu Ozyegin is worth $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. With investments in banking, retail, property, shipbuilding and energy, the 70-year-old the second wealthiest Turk. Last year Ozyegin made his first investment in the health sector, bought the Rixos-owned Tekirova resort in Antalya, and built a $300 million shopping complex in China.

Semahat Arsel

Semahat ArselEighty-six-year-old Arsel is part of Turkey’s wealthiest family, and is the third-richest Turkish citizen with $2.6 billion in assets. She manages the family conglomerate’s tourism investments, including Setur Tourism and Divan Hotels. Arsel is a champion of nursing education and research, spurred by a long childhood illness. Her sister and brother are also billionaires.

Ferit Sahenk

In 2013, 50-year-old Sahenk was Turkey’s wealthiest person, with a fortune of $3.4 billion. However, Garanti Bank, owned in part by the family business, Dogus Holding, has slid in value, relegating him to fifth place. Sahenk is Dogus’ president, and the company, founded by Sahenk’s father, has stakes in tourism, media, finance and construction. In November Sahenk agreed to sell a 14.89 percent stake of Garanti Bank to Spanish bank BBVA for $121 million. If the sale goes through his family’s stake in the bank will drop to 10 percent.

Sarik Tara

Sarik TaraSelf-made man Tara founded one of Turkey’s biggest construction companies, ENKA. His billionaire son, Mehmet Tara, now runs the company, although Tara Senior has remained actively involved. ENKA is involved in contracting, construction, energy and property investment all over the world, especially in Russia. ENKA also had a contract to build US embassy buildings in the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Afghanistan.

Erman Ilicak

Ilicak’s construction company Ronesans was founded in St Petersburg 20 years ago and now operates in Turkey, Russia, Turkmenistan, Austria, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia. In Turkey Ronesans owns 10 shopping malls, an office building and a hotel complex. In 2013 the company won a $1 billion St Petersburg construction project that includes a port and more than 5000 homes. Last year the 47-year-old stepped down as CEO to take on the role of company present, ceding the top role to his sister, Ipek Ilicak. 

Ali Agaoglu

Ali AgaogluSixty-one-year-old father of five Agaoglu is one of Turkey’s biggest residential real estate drivers. This year his biggest project to date will be completed - the mixed-use development Maslak 1543, in Istanbul. Agaoglu was taken into custody in 2013 during an investigation into corruption. Charges were dropped last year.

Bulent Eczacibasi

Eczacibasi’s fortune was born out of pharmaceuticals. As president of Eczacibasi Holdings, the 65-year-old has steered the company away from its origins into building materials, health, consumer products, IT, mining and real estate. The company owns one of the largest ceramic factories on the planet and is Turkey’s market leader for toilet paper. Eczacibasi is one of Turkey’s chief art collectors, and is the president of the Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation and the Istanbul Museum for Modern Art.

Ahmet Calik

The owner of Calik Holdings has interests in energy, construction, textiles, banking, telecoms and mining. The conglomerate distributes energy to five Turkish cities and owns the Kosovo Electricity Distribution Company. Calik’s fortune-building began with Gap Guneydogu Textile, one of the world’s foremost denim producers.

Ahmet Zorlu

Ahmet ZorluZorlu’s textile company, founded with his brother Zeki Zorlu, became Turkey’s largest exporter. Zorlu Holding has investments in electronics and energy, and owns private label television maker Vestel Electronics. Two years ago Zorlu completed the Zorlu Center, a $2.5 billion complex in Istanbul that included shopping mall, residences, offices and a hotel. The high school dropout gets about in a custom-designed helicopter and owns an island off the Turkish coast.

Hamdi Ulukaya

At 43, Ulukaya is one of Turkey’s youngest billionaires. Ulukaya founded Chobani, the US’s most popular Greek yogurt. But it’s been a bumpy road for the entrepreneur. In 2013 hundreds became ill from mold-tainted yogurt. Meanwhile, his yogurt plant in Idaho, the largest in the world, was operating at 20 percent capacity. The company suffered, and not quite a year ago Chobani almost lost everything, before being bailed out by TPG Capital exec Ken Burns, who invested $730 million into the company, acquiring 35 percent. Chobani bounced back, and is once again in the black. Turkish born Ulukaya moved to the US to study business in 1997. In 2001 he started a cheese company in New York City, and four years later went on to buy a Kraft Foods yogurt plant. The rest is history - but for one detail: Ulukaya’s ex wife is presently suing him for a 53 percent stake in the company, claiming she helped finance his original business. Ulukaya disputes these claims.

Mubariz Gurbanoglu

Gurbanoglu is the founder of the Palmali Group, with wide-ranging interests including dairy, media, aviation, resorts and navigation - Palmali Navigation owns 200 oil tankers. Gurbanoglu’s beginnings are intriguing. Azerbaijan-born, he began his career as an officer in the Soviet secret service, buying ships for a fraction of their value during privatisation. He changed his surname to Gurbanoglu when he became a Turkish citizen. He’s retained his Russian links, maintaining oil transport contacts with Russian behemoth Lukoil and with Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company Socar. Palmali is the company behind Bodrum’s new Palmarina, a luxury marina complex in Yalikavak. The former soldier has an antique weapons collection comprising over 600 pieces, some of which are displayed in his Istanbul offices.

Despite spiralling oil prices and a weak Euro, the number of global billionaires has grown, the magazine said. There are now a record number of 1826 billionaires worldwide, with a net worth of $7.05 trillion, up from $6.05 trillion last year. There are 290 newcomers on the list, a quarter of those from China.

Bill Gates has held the title of the world’s richest person for 16 out of the last 21 years, with a fortune currently estimated at $79.2 billion.


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