Güler Sabancı
image courtesy of the World Economic Forum
Turkey
Güler Sabancı
  • Chair, Sabancı Holding (Diversified)
Born Adana, Turkey, 1955. BBA, Boğaziçi University (1978).
“[I]t was a difficult period for Turkey—the ’60s… the ’70s… If you look at that period, to be able to grow and to do projects did require… analytical thinking, having a long-term vision, feeling the trends, and also taking risks in certain areas.”

Summary

Güler Sabancı, ranked the 64th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2016, discusses the decisions that helped the Sabanci Group emerge as one of the leading business conglomerates in Turkey despite considerable political and economic turbulence over three decades. The Sabanci Group now consists of over 70 companies active in eleven countries. After college graduating in 1978, Sabanci, a member of the third generation of the founding family, joined the Group's new subsidiary manufacturing tires. In this interview, she recalls how challenging it was for the new subsdiary to succeed against the background of a military coup, and she describes how the venture came near to bankruptcy.

Sabanci also details the subsequent growth of the Group with joint ventures and licensing agreements with U.S., European and Japanese multinationals. During the 1990s, the Group professionalized its governance and management, despite major political and economic turbulence that culminated with the collapse of the entire Turkish financial system in 2001. The Group’s Akbank was the only Turkish bank which escaped nearly unscathed.

Sabanci explores the carefully-honed skills in managing cash flows and foreign exchange risk and explains how, over time, the Group developed competitive advantages in crisis management—both in turning around failed businesses and in building greenfield operations in turbulent conditions.

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Güler Sabancı, ranked the 64th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2016, discusses the decisions that helped the Sabanci Group emerge as one of the leading business conglomerates in Turkey despite considerable political and economic turbulence over three decades. The Sabanci Group now consists of over 70 companies active in eleven countries. After college graduating in 1978, Sabanci, a member of the third generation of the founding family, joined the Group's new subsidiary manufacturing tires. In this interview, she recalls how challenging it was for the new subsdiary to succeed against the background of a military coup, and she describes how the venture came near to bankruptcy.

Sabanci also details the subsequent growth of the Group with joint ventures and licensing agreements with U.S., European and Japanese multinationals. During the 1990s, the Group professionalized its governance and management, despite major political and economic turbulence that culminated with the collapse of the entire Turkish financial system in 2001. The Group’s Akbank was the only Turkish bank which escaped nearly unscathed.

Sabanci explores the carefully-honed skills in managing cash flows and foreign exchange risk and explains how, over time, the Group developed competitive advantages in crisis management—both in turning around failed businesses and in building greenfield operations in turbulent conditions.
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Video Clips by Topic

Sabancı 4

Güler Sabancı, head of the Turkey-based diversified business group Sabancı Holding, discusses her strategy of managing risk when doing business in another country by focusing on having a local partner, protecting her technology, and being prepared for currency fluctuations.


Gender

Güler Sabancı, CEO of one of Turkey’s largest family-owned business groups, Sabancı Holding, describes the importance of workforce diversity to help promote innovation and sustainability at the company. She also discusses the rising percentage of women working at Sabancı over her tenure.



Leadership

Güler Sabancı, CEO of one of Turkey's largest family-owned business groups, Sabancı Holding, explains how her uncle led their family bank, Akbank, through the 2000-2001 financial crisis.


Social Responsibility

Güler Sabanci, CEO of one of Turkey’s largest family-owned business groups, Sabanci Holding, discusses the values of her group towards social responsibility. She talks about how the Sabanci Foundation was established by the Sabanci brothers in 1974, with her grandmother donating her wealth to it.


Family Business

Güler Sabancı, chair of Sabancı Holding, one of the largest diversified business groups in Turkey, describes how her grandfather trained his children (including her father) to take over the family business and how he also inspired his granddaughter by bringing her to the factory at age 3.


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

"Interview with Güler Sabancı, interviewed by Dante Roscini, May 23, 2014, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/."