Focus on World Family Business Leaders | Güler Sabanci

This week the Family Business Office, for its 22nd edition of Focus On World Family Business Leaders, goes east and introduces third generation family business heir Güler Sabanci.

Güler Sabanci is the first woman to run Sabanci Holding, her family business, which was started by her grandfather in the 1930s. Originally a textile company, Sabanci has since expanded to become the second-largest conglomerate in Turkey. Her company’s holdings include banking, energy, retail and insurance.

Sabancı was the granddaughter of Hacı Ömer Sabancı (1906–66), who started building what would become the Sabancı Group by investing in a small cotton textile concern in Adana; her father, Ihsan Sabancı (1930–79), was the eldest of Hacı Ömer’s six sons. She showed an early interest in the family enterprise, and, after graduating (1978) with a degree in business administration from Boğaziƈi University, Istanbul, she took a job with the Sabancı Group’s tire-production company, Lassa (later Brisa). Sabancı worked her way up to general manager of Kordsa, the group’s tire-cord-production company (1985), and to president of the group’s tire and reinforcement-materials unit (1997).

She was named chairman and managing director of Sabancı Holding in 2004 after the death of her uncle Sakıp Sabancı, who had been head of the conglomerate since 1967. After taking control, she continued her uncle’s work in expanding the family’s financial and industrial enterprise into a worldwide business empire. She also served as a trustee of Sabancı University and of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, which was housed in the family’s former summer home near the Bosporus. From 2013 to 2018 Sabancı served on the supervisory board of the German technology giant Siemens AG.

Güler Sabancı, ranked the 64th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2016, and now family business leader 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.


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.

Sabancı also headed the philanthropic Sabancı Foundation, and she supported numerous causes, including the “Girls Not Brides” initiative to end child marriages around the world. In addition, she campaigned for greater educational opportunities for children and for an end to the use of child labourers.


( All factual and statistical information presented in this blog has been obtained from an extract of articles found on and ) Follow us on our Facebook page and Family Business Office website at

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