Born-Again Turk




The half-century-old Dogus Holding Co. is another construction and banking conglomerate embracing the Internet. In Turkey no one is more aggressive about information technology than Ferit Sahenk, its 36-year-old CEO.

“Like water, this company adapts to changing situations,” says the son of Ayhan Sahenk, founder of Dogus {pronounced DOUG-oosh, literally “birth” in Turkish}. Witness the young boss’ elegant office in Istanbul It’s paperless, save for a well-thumbed copy of The GE Way Fieldbook on his desk. A thin computer screen displays the group’s new NTV-MSNBC news portal, a joint venture between MSNBC and Turkey’s leading all-news channel. The content, Sahenk proudly notes, is produced in Turkish then translated into English, rather than vice versa.

What gets the naturally enthusiastic Sahenk most excited these days is Ixir, the group’s Internet service provider and incubator. The Ixir logo is everywhere in Turkey-emblazoned on billboards, in shop windows, in newspaper ads. “We didn’t know if we’d be running a gold mine or a grocery store,” says Babur Ozden, Ixir’s CEO, “so we came up with a mysterious name. Now everyone in Turkey is talking about it.”

And not just talking. Subscriptions have soared from 10,000 at its February launch to more than 100,000 in June, making Ixir Turkey’s second-largest ISP. Web numbers in this region are relatively small, but Ixir has attracted the young with its own hot portals. Undaunted by the crash in U.S. Internet values, Sahenk plans to take it public later this year.

Dogus has reinvented itself before. Sahenk’s father, now 71 and chairman of the company, made Dogus Insaat a leading builder of Turkish roads, ports and hospitals. In the late 1970s he diversified into banking, which is now the group’s core business, accounting for 70% of the family’s $3.6 billion fortune.

And Sahenk has continued to expand. As Turkey evolved from a state-controlled economy to market capitalism in the 1980s, he branched into importing and joint ventures in automotive, tourism and food with Volkswagen, Sheraton and ConAgra.

Juliette Rossant

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