• Friday, April 19, 2024
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Guler Sabanci is the third generation leader of the second-largest company in Turkey, Sabanci Holdings, which has a controlling interest in 10 companies in the financial services, energy, cement and retail sectors. Sabanci is investing heavily in its cement business, spending $200 million over five years to curb carbon emissions, and in 2012, took star retail Technology Company Teknosa public.

Guler started in Sabanci’s tyre business just out of college at age 23 and went on to hold several executive positions. She became chairman in 2004. She is the first female member of TUSIAD, Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, as well as the first and only female member of European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT). She also sits on the United Nations Global Compact Board, International Business Council of WEF and the External Advisory Board of MIT Energy Initiative.

A graduate of Bogazici University, Faculty of Business Administration, Guler is the founding president of Sabanci University and has been presiding over the Board of Trustees of Sabanci University since its establishment in 1996. She also acts as chairman of Sakip Sabanci Museum and is on the board of the Sabanci Foundation.

A key contributor to Turkey’s blooming economy, a powerful force in Turkey, a mover and shaker across the globe, running a multibillion dollar empire that runs through generations; but for her, it it’s more than just a job.

The name

The name Sabanci (her family name) has come to symbolise education, philanthropy and appreciation of the arts. “The group has been improving in the past ten years, averaging 12 percent net; the target for the next ten years is to grow higher than this. We constitute about 5••• percentage of the total tax revenue of the Turkish government,” she once stated.

Grandfather’s impact

Sabanci says her grandfather was a passionate, a self-made man and a genius.

Building consensus 

Guler is very confident about this: “We are very cooperative, we are a team. I have never thought in my life I could do something on my own. I had dreams, I had ideas but I had to convince people.”

Giving back

For Guler, “Life is meaningless if you are only making money. It is important, it is essential but it is not enough.” And she lives it out. The charitable contributions of Sabanci Group have amounted to over $1.5 billion.


Guler believes that discrimination against women has been on for a long time. It did not start today. Hear her: “This is common, especially when you want a leadership role, and it is not only in Turkey. There was a Banker’s club in London that I was very interested to have lunch in and I was told I couldn’t go and this was around 1985/86. Though there were women bankers then, yet they were not allowed to get into the Banker’s club.”


In 2011, Guler Sabanci was named 2nd on the Financial Times’ list of the Top 50 Women in World Business.

A big supporter of ‘Girls not brides’ which fights against girl marriages, Guler in 2011 won the Clinton’s global citizens awards for her effort. She admits: “President Clinton and his team are doing an incredible job in motivating us.”

She is a recipient of numerous awards from a variety of countries including Spain, Austria, France, Belgium, and Italy. She has also been awarded the Raymond Georis Prize for Innovative Philanthropy; the Austrian Schumpeter Prize; and the European School of Management and Technology’s Responsible Leadership Award.


“What I believe strongly,” says Guler, “is that I took the flag from my uncle and my cousins and others will take the flag from me so that it continues. Sustainability in every term is crucial and that is our duty going forward.”


Her motto, Guler says, has always been this: “God should give me the courage to change the things I can change, the courage to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”