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The Rich List 2005: Top Ten Wealthiest Dynasties in Greece and Turkey

January 24, 2006


By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

Greece and Turkey are the two wealthiest countries in southeastern Europe. Their family fortunes are concentrated in select areas that go back for generations. In these archetypal Mediterranean nations, familial dynasties rather than individual businessmen thus ensure the transfer of power, prestige and wealth.

In 2005, the wealthiest Greeks and Turks continued to branch out into new areas of the economy and have attained considerable political clout. Moreover, each year they give large sums for charity and humanitarian and educational organizations the world over.

This article introduces the ten wealthiest Greek and Turkish dynasties (five a side), and gives a short description of their assets, history and achievements.

However, readers should note that other tycoons may have been omitted due to limited space or other factors; for example, businessmen with dual nationalities, or those who spend most or all of their time abroad, or whose financial assets may be very considerable but at the same time too difficult to calculate (such as the Greek ship owners)- all these have been excluded from the present study.

Top Five Turkish Dynasties

1.) The Sabanci Family

The Sabanci family conglomerate is a formidable force in the Turkish market. They direct Sabanci Holding, considered to rank 85th among the world’s largest family-owned businesses. The patriarch of the family, Sakip Sabanci, died in April 2004.

Sabanci Holding encompasses a diverse range of economic activities. It has interests in tourism, textiles, chemicals, banking, the automotive industry and much more. Multinationals such as Du Pont, Toyota, IBM and the Altria group have formed partnerships with Sabanci-controlled industries and have formed a large basis of today’s Turkey’s industrial production.

The family patriarch was born in 1933 in Kayseri, into a rather poor family and maintained his folksy charm throughout; according to the Guardian, he “rejoiced in being known as “Sakip Aga’ – which translates roughly as Squire Sakip, or the big man of the village. To reinforce the point, he often spoke with a deliberate provincial drawl, which was his way of showing the country that, despite his wealth and influence, he had not lost contact with his origins.”

Mr. Sabanci managed throughout his life to create an economic empire and at the same time to help form a new breed of Turkish industrialists, who aspire to become not merely workers but leading shapers of new technology and industry in Europe. He was also a major donor for philanthropic institutions and the creator of the Sabanci University in Istanbul, one of the top academic institutions in the region. Furthermore, his Istanbul museum on the Bosporus, dedicated to fine arts and calligraphy, has gained an international reputation.

In the societal and political sphere, Sabanci and his family are considered very influential. It must be noted that the late Turkish prime minister, Turgut Ozal was a friend and a coordinator of his family’s interests, having predicted the dynamics of free-market economy and how productivity-driven entrepreneurs could lift the Turkish economy.

Facts: Sabanci Holding comprises 64 companies, 9 joint ventures and numerous real estate investments. Total revenues for 2005 are estimated at around 8.7 billion USD. They employ around 35,000 people.

Fortune: Sabanci’s family fortune is roughly estimated at 3.5 billion USD.

2.) The Koç Clan

The reigning king of Turkish businesses is Rahmi Koç. One of the most successfulbusinessmen of his generation, Mr. Koç commands a lot of respect in the international arena for his abilities and vision where financial issues are concerned. He directs the Koç conglomerate, which is very diversified and follows a complex business structure. He too has acquired a reputation for charity and thousands of people depend on his support for various needs.

Koç ‘s business interests lie in the food and automotive industry, retail and supermarkets, finance, construction, defense and other. Moreover, he was for a period of time during the 1990’s the driving force behind the expansion of Turkish international economic interests in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean area and has promoted economic cooperation with Greek, Israeli, American and Arab investors. He is also considered a staunch supporter of Turkey’s further consolidation within the EU structures, as well as an optimist about Istanbul’s role as a key city in the Balkans. Koç also started a museum which is billed as “the first major museum in Turkey dedicated to the history of Transport, Industry and Communications.”

Facts: The Koç conglomerate has 106 companies and an undisclosed number of business partnerships, virtually all over the world. Around 65,000 employees work in them.

Fortune: The estimated family fortune is around 3.2 billion USD.

3.) The Sahenk Family

Slightly lower profile but also fabulously wealthy is the Sahenk family. Ferit Sahenk is the chairman of Dogus Holding, which is active in a variety of fields such as construction, finance, tourism, media and other sectors.

The family also owns the well known and successful Garanti Bank, in which the GE Capital Corporation bought a 25 percent stake for 1.7 billion USD last year. This particular deal was rated as an important step towards greater liberalization in the Turkish banking sector, which had been severely affected by the 2001 economic crisis, and the Sahenk family received acclaim for this achievement. Having such a large amount of readily available capital naturally means that they would most surely capture the headlines with investments, either abroad or domestic.

Compared with other Turkish tycoons, the Sahenk family is generally considered as keeping a low profile, seeking little media exposure. Nevertheless, considering the amount of capital they have raised, it is more than certain that they will continue to play a very active role in the Turkish economy in the coming years.

Facts: The net worth of the Sahenk conglomerate is around 2.5 billion USD, with a turnover for 2005 of 6 billion USD. They employ about 18,000 people.

Fortune: Estimated at around 3.5 billion USD.

4.) Turgay Ciner and Family

A very shrewd businessperson with an unlimited capacity for achieving deals, mergers and opportunities, Turgay Ciner prides himself on being a self-made entrepreneur and doesn’t hide his ambition of taking on a greater role as far as business issues are concerned. His flagship company is the Park Group, which has invested capital in sectors like textiles, energy, media and mining. A lot of the production in the latter is being exported to Middle Eastern states, with the intention of expanding into the Chinese market.

Facts: Ciner employs around 14,000 people. Capital investments and revenues have not been found, but are considered to be almost as high as the previous three holdings.

Fortune: Estimated around 1.1 billion USD.

5.) Mehmet Karamehmet and Family

The Karamehmet family owns Turkcell, a mobile phone operator which is the largest in Turkey and amongst the top ten in Europe in terms of subscriber numbers. It is also listed on the NYSE. They also own the Superonline web portal, the largest inˆšÃ‡  Turkey, which also serves as an e-pass for all services controlled by the Karamehmet family. Where philanthropic matters are concerned, the family gives a lot in terms of scholarships as well as in donations towards football clubs and sports in general.

Facts: Turkcell has 2,300 employees, and 27 million subscribers, with a lot of growth potential in the Central Asia market.

Fortune: Around 3.5 billion USD.

Top Five Greek Dynasties

1.) The Latsis Family

The first name on the Greek list is that of Spiros Latsis, heir of the legendary self-made tycoon John Latsis. He is a very discreet businessman, who has carefully and methodically constructed a financial empire, whilst diversifying assets from shipping — the basis of his father’s wealth — into a variety of activities.

For example, a leading Greek bank, Eurobank, was created by Latsis in 1990; its ongoing success story includes success at home as well as expansion into the Balkans and planned expansion in Poland; the bank is shooting for 100 new branches throughout the northeastern European country by 2008.

Another notable Latsis investment is the Lamda Development Group, associated with the real estate sector, which has made notable achievements in Greece and Romania. Spiros Latsis also became a large shareholder in Hellenic Petroleum when his oil refinery was merged with it.

Like the other dynasties on the list, the Latsis family is also a great benefactor, donating educational scholarships for students and large sums each year for charities. Latsis’ key characteristic is his financial savvy and a great intellectual capacity for understanding the deep underlying challenges that accompany business expansion.

Facts: Eurobank employees number around 13,500; the bank has a market capitalization of 8 billion USD in the Athens Stock Exchange.

Fortune: The Latsis family fortune is estimated at around 6 billion USD.

2.) The Vardinoyannis Family

A very well known name in Greek business circles is that of the Vardinoyannis family. Unlike the other more or less patriarchal dynasties, the Vardinoyannis clan operates as a tight-knit group of relatives controlling numerous successful companies in a variety of sectors. The most important is the Avin International group, active in the area of oil transport, possessing a fleet of tankers and offices in locations across the globe.

The family also owns Motor Oil, an oil refinery in the Athens area which is the second largest in the Balkans and has an international clientele for its finished products. Other companies include the Star TV station and Village Cinemas.

The Vardinoyannis family is very well known for its donations to charities, and has very close relations with other rich and important families in the USA and the Arabic world. Its business philosophy is characterized by a tendency to tread cautiously and to promote the interests of the companies, without bowing to ephemeral passing trends and opportunistic temptations.

Facts: Motor oil has a market capitalization of around 3 billion USD. The total number of employees in all Vardinoyannis-controlled companies is difficult to calculate precisely, but they probably are around 15,000.

Fortune: Around 2 billion USD.

3.) Socrates Kokkalis and Family

The flamboyant Socrates Kokkalis heads up one of the richest and most important business empires in the current Greek business scene. A self-made, dynamic entrepreneur involved in electronics and new technology, Kokkalis has built from scratch a large conglomerate well known for the high technology of its products.

First among them is the Intracom Group, an electronics company that built Kokkalis’ image, for better and for worse, which has achieved over the years numerous contracts in multiple countries. The Intralot entity is a group specialized in designing, producing and implementing systems for lotto and other games of chance all over the world, from Ecuador to Russia to Thailand. It is considered the third-largest group of its kind and pundits predict it will reach the top by the end of the decade.

However, Socrates Kokkalis has also been dogged by scandals and lawsuits, which he vociferously argues are nothing more than politically-motivated smear campaigns by his business campaigners, involving alleged crimes ranging from sports-fixing and lottery fraud to ties with drug smugglers. Kokkalis’ main related characteristic is his business acumen, combined with a driving will to succeed.

Like the others on the list, Kokkalis has attempted to increase his influence and undertake philanthropic obligations through giving scholarships to Balkan students at his Kokkalis Foundation, located at Harvard University in the US.

Facts: Intracom has around a 750 million USD annual turnover, and 50 million USD profit. It employees around 8,000 people. Intrasoft has 1,500 employees and revenues of 400 million USD.

Fortune: Around 1.5 billion USD.

4.) Nikolaos Stasinopoulos and Family

Fourth on the list of the Greek rich and powerful is Nikolaos Stasinopoulos. He is a very discreet and productive captain of industry, and one who belongs literally to the group of businessmen that developed the post-WWII Greek industrial sector.

The family’s main company is Viohalko Holding, which has interests ranging in all areas of metallurgy. Other firms include ELVAL, which produces aluminum products, ETEM, Halkor, Sidenor and Fitco. All these companies are involved in the production of copper, steel and plastic, and have made real inroads on international markets. In fact, 6 percent of Greece’s total exports come from the Stasinopoulos string of companies. Mr. Stasinopoulos has held the title of greatest Greek exporter for quite some years. His main business characteristics are caution and discretion; he eschews public display of his wealth and strives for minimal media exposure.

Facts: Some 80 companies are owned partially or in full by Stasinopoulos. Viohalco alone employs around 8,000 people. The sum of exports made by his group in 2005 was around 1.5 billion USD.

Fortune: The Stasinopoulos fortune stands at around 1.2 billion USD; however, its sheer number and diversity of interests makes it difficult to estimate.

5.) The Mytilineos Family

The final Greek entry on the list is the venerable Mytilineos family, which has dealt in metal products since the late 19th century. The family owns the Mytilineos Holding consortium, which has a strong presence in the Greek and Balkan area in the aforementioned products.

They also have large stakes in Aluminium of Greece, the largest aluminum producer in the country, and the METKA Group, which is involved in the production of material used in electrical plants and in projects in the defense sector. Moreover, they are the main stakeholders in ELVO, which manufactures light-weight vehicles, mainly for the armed forces. As a family, the Mytilinios clan has strong ambition to get more involved in the emerging Balkan markets, especially in Romania.

Facts: Around 5000 employees in all companies, and Mytilineos Holding alone projects revenues of 1.3 billion USD for 2006.

Fortune: Roughly, around 1 billion USD.

Links for further reading and research:

Additional information and sources for this article can be found on the websites of the Athens Stock Exchange, the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Fortune, Business Week, and Forbes.

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