Ali Koç, scion of Turkey’s wealthiest family, elected Fenerbahçe chair
Turkish football and multi-sports giant Fenerbahçe elected on June 3 a member of one of Turkey’s wealthiest industrial dynasties as its new chairman, ending the two-decade reign of longstanding supremo Aziz Yıldırım.
Businessman Ali Koç was elected new Fenerbahçe chairman in a landslide ballot win among members, winning 16,092 of their votes compared to just 4,644 for Yıldırım.
The change at the top marks a turning point for the Istanbul club, which has been dominated by Yıldırım since he became chairman in 1998.
In a tense congress, held in a special stand erected on the pitch of Fenerbahçe’s stadium, both men accused the other of “lying” and promised to pump investment into the club if elected.
“I congratulate you,” Koç told supporters after his election victory was announced. “I am just the shop window of this success.”
In a message of reconciliation after the tense congress he said: “We have not sworn allegiance to anyone, we have not taken advantage. We have made sure we are worthy of this community.”
Under Yıldırım’s leadership, Fenerbahçe has won the Turkish football league six times and have on occasion been fearsome opponents in Europe.
Yet recent years have brought thinner pickings, with the side’s last Super League championship win in 2014 and this season finishing runner-up to arch rivals Galatasaray.
The men’s and women’s basketball sides have however been all-conquering, with the men crowned Euroleague champions in 2017.
Yıldırım was in 2012 sentenced to six years and three months in prison on charges of match-fixing in a scandal that rocked Turkish football. But he and his supporters, including his rival Koç, blamed the investigation on supporters of the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen who Turkey accuses of staging the 2016 failed coup.
He was acquitted in a retrial in 2014 and is awaiting the approval of the Supreme Court of Cassations.
In his bid for re-election in the latest congress, Yıldırım said he needed another three-year term to “take those who tarnished my and Fenerbahçe’s name into account and legally fight to compensate the financial losses that stem from this plot by FETÖ.”
Turkey’s match fixing scandal broke out after the 2010-11 season of the Spor Toto Super Lig, which saw Fenerbahçe win the title.
European football’s governing body UEFA barred Fenerbahçe from European tournaments for two seasons as a result of its investigation in 2013.
Yıldırım served one year of his sentence and in October 2015 was acquitted by an Istanbul court. The ruling still requires approval by Turkey’s supreme court and in this event Fenerbahçe are expected to seek massive compensation for the losses caused.
Yıldırım was also criticized for big money football signings that did not bear fruit, notably that of Dutch striker Robin van Persie who did not have the expected impact after joining from Manchester United.
Koç’s candidacy represented a rare intervention in Turkish public life by his family, one of the country’s richest industrial dynasties.
The third son of former Koç Group chairman Rahmi Koc, Ali Koç has promised to use his business contacts to reinvigorate the club.
His eldest brother Mustafa, the former Koç Group chairman, died in 2016. His other brother Ömer currently leads the group.
Forbes magazine this year estimated that family patriarch Rahmi Koç has a fortune of $1.76 billion.