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Koç, Rahmi M(ustafa)

Koç, Rahmi M(ustafa)

Koç, Rahmi M(ustafa)

Koç, Rahmi M(ustafa) (b. October 9, 1930, Ankara), businessman, philanthropist and collector. Among other roles, he served as the honorary chair of the Koç Holding Board of Directors, the vice president of the Vehbi Koç Foundation Board of Directors, the founder and chair of the Rahmi M. Koç Museology and Culture Foundation Board of Directors, the chair of the American Hospital Board of Directors and the honorary chair of the Koç University (KU) Board of Trustees.

He was born as the second child (see also Sevgi Gönül and Suna Kıraç) of Vehbi Koç and Sadberk Koç after Semahat Arsel in the family’s orchard house in Keçiören, Ankara (today’s VEKAM[*] operations center). Together with his older sister, he grew up in the care of Austrian and German nannies. After completing the Turkish Education Association (TED) Elementary School in Ankara, he went to Istanbul and began at Robert College. After completing his high school studies in Britain, he went to the USA and studied business at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He carried out his military service as a reserve officer in the Military Academies. In September 1958, he began his career working at the Otokoç company in Ankara.

Vehbi Koç: “Muster him for me, the company, and the nation”

In 1955, I met with Rahmi Koç in Washington. At that time, Rahmi Koç was studying at Johns Hopkins University in America. I invited him to lunch at La Salle du Bois, which was the biggest restaurant in Washington at that time. He found the lunch very expensive and said, “that’s what I would spend in 15 days.” I replied, “I’m sure you’ll go to such restaurants yourself in the future.” In those days, he had a fine Ford automobile.

After that trip, Vehbi Koç said that he hoped Rahmi would begin to work in the automobile business in Ankara. After Rahmi Koç completed Johns Hopkins University, he returned to Turkey and completed his military service as a reserve officer. When he came to Ankara, Vehbi Koç handed his son over to me and added “Muster him for me, the company, and the nation. That duty is much more important to me than all the money you have made and will make for us in future,” he added.
Bernar Nahum, Koç’ta 44 Yılım: Bir Otomotiv Sanayii Kuruluyor (My 44 Years at Koç: An Automotive Industry is Established), Milliyet Yayınları, Istanbul, 1988, p. 80

In 1960, he moved to Koç Ticaret AŞ, which represented the Koç Group in Ankara. Rahmi M. Koç moved to Istanbul when the Ankara headquarters of Koç Holding were moved there in 1964, a year after its founding. In December 1969, he took over the role of general coordinator of Koç Holding from Hulki Alisbah. In 1970, he was made the chair of an executive committee formed of Suna Kıraç, İsak de Eskinazis, Bernar Nahum and Ziya Bengü, which was established to carry out the principle decisions of the holding’s board of directors, to follow the results and to manage relationships between the companies and the holding. In 1975, he began serving as vice president of the Koç Holding Board. In 1980, he became the chair of the managing committee set up to coordinate relations between the Automotive Group and the Industrial and Trade Group and ensure intra-group communication between high-level directors.

On March 30, 1984, Rahmi M. Koç was elected as chair of the board of directors of Koç Holding in place of his father, Vehbi Koç, who had stood down from the position and become honorary chair. In 1988, he became the chair of the newly-established Koç Holding Executive Committee. On April 4, 2003, he retired, handing his role on the board of directors over to his oldest son Mustafa V. Koç and becoming the holding company’s honorary chair.

Three generations, three eras: Vehbi Koç was assembly, I was production, the children are international expansion

Rahmi Koç divided up the Koç Group, which is only two years younger than the Republic, into three eras, saying, “My father Vehbi Koç’s era was assembly, my era was production, and my children’s era is imports, exports, and opening our brands up to the outside.” He explained that he and his children found a ready-established institution with strong foundations. His words about his children’s management, in fact, seem to answer questions that many wonder about these days: “I am not taking part in day-to-day work. They manage the work day-by-day. Beneath them are professionals. We told them to use the professionals well. You need do nothing else and they will run things very well. Each of them looks after a group. I am happy. They get on well with one another, that’s the most important thing.”

Rahmi Koç described how one of the biggest problems in the global world of family businesses, internal family clashes, has not happened at Koç: “As you know, big fortunes, big companies, big groups have disappeared due to fights between family members. Or they have crumbled and shrunk. We don’t have that. The children have so far carried it very well. I hope they will continue doing it after we are gone.” Rahmi Koç said that his father Vehbi Koç had taken important steps on the road to corporatization, but that there were still important differences:

“Corporatization is important. We give authority to professionals, but within our defined budgets. They don’t go outside the budget; if they do, they need permission.”

Rahmi Koç continued in response to my question about where the Koç Group saw itself in the upcoming years: “In order for the Koç Group to continue like this, it needs to open up to the world. From now on, our investments will be abroad, but life is not easy there. We have a reputation here: To very gradually establish ourselves, make investments, be successful. All of our children have that philosophy, because in their youth they worked at our companies abroad.”
News by Jale Özgentürk, Hürriyet, January 31, 2016

Rahmi M. Koç took on important roles at national and international institutions representing the business world. In 1961, he joined the Administrative Council of the Turkish National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), becoming a member of the board of directors and chair of the executive committee in 1987. The same year, he was elected member of the Business Advisory Council, newly set up by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). At a meeting in Paris in November 1994, Koç was elected president of the ICC, where he served for two years.

Koç was one of the Turkish Industry and Business Association’s (TÜSİAD) honorary presidents, and between 1990 and 1994 he was chair of the Supreme Consultative Council. He has also been president of the Turkish-Greek Business Council, the co-chair of the Business Advisory Council for South Eastern Europe (BAC SEE) and a member of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. Rahmi Koç is currently the honorary president of the Global Relations Forum (GRF).

U nder his mother’s influence, Rahmi M. Koç became interested in collecting from his childhood onwards and over many years has amassed a large personal collection of objects. In 1991, he began to work towards the establishment of Turkey’s first industrial museum, aiming to protect, promote and nurture industrial culture. Construction began in 1992 in a historical building known as the Lengerhane in Hasköy on the Golden Horn. Rahmi M. Koç became lifetime president of the Rahmi M. Koç Museology and Culture Foundation established in 1993 and the Istanbul Rahmi M. Koç Museum opened the following year in 1994. This was followed by the foundation of the Ankara Rahmi M. Koç Museum (2005), Sevim and Necdet Kent Library in Ayvalık (2007) and the Ayvalık Rahmi M. Koç Museum (2014) under the auspices of the Rahmi M. Koç Museology and Culture Foundation.

Collecting according to Rahmi M. Koç

What is the philosophy of collecting?

In essence, collecting is a passion and at the same time a discipline. It demands sacrifice and persistence. It is a labor of patience. Things of all sorts can be collected. Not only is collecting a pleasant pastime, it also develops a person and adds a lot to his life. Over time a strong bond develops between the collector and his collection. At the same time collecting is also a matter of budgeting. There is no rule that says a person with a lot of money will have a great collection.

How did you get started? Did your family circle have an influence on you?

My interest in collecting started when I was very small. During the summer holidays when all the other kids were swimming in the Bosphorus, my mother would take me with her to the Grand Bazaar so she could keep an eye on me. During that period I couldn’t help but overhear how the sales of antiques and collections were negotiated. The spark that was lit in me then later turned into a flame. In time I was collecting antiques of all kinds. When I became more conscious of what I was doing, I got interested in archaeological artifacts. And I began to collect them for the museum as a licensed collector.

How did the idea for a museum of industry come about?

First I thought of collecting the products manufactured by the Koç Group in a museum, but friends I consulted warned me that such a museum would not attract interest, so I broadened the base. When I was setting up the Rahmi M. Koç Museum we wanted it to have things that would interest everybody from seven to seventy.

How did you get interested in cars?

I got a lot more interested in cars when I went to the U.S., to Johns Hopkins University. I was awed by Henry Ford, who was nothing less than a genius. Later when I made a business trip to Detroit in 1956, I toured the Henry Ford Museum at Dearborn and was extremely impressed. It was there, with those feelings, that I said to myself: God willing, I too will found a museum like this in Turkey one day. In time, houses, offices, warehouses, literally every place I had filled up with collections of all sorts. In the end I decided to found a museum and share my collections with the public. That in short is the story of the birth of our museum.

Rahmi M. Koç, who is known for his passion for the sea, was a leading figure in the establishment of the DenizTemiz Association/TURMEPA in 1994 and its first president. The organization was founded to “make the protection of (Turkey’s) beaches and shores a national priority and to ensure a more habitable Turkey with clean seas is left for future generations”. In 2001, he passed on the presidency and became the honorary president.

Between 2004 and 2006, Rahmi M. Koç fulfilled his childhood ambition of traveling around the world in a sailing boat. During the 657-day tour made on the Nazenin IV sailboat, he covered 28,250 nautical miles and visited five continents. A compilation of his travel memoirs and notes, titled Sergüzeşttir Seyahatnamem (My Travelogue is an Adventure) and Nazenin IV ile Devr-i Âlem (Around the World with the Nazenin IV) were published by American Hospital Publications in 2009. After his trip to Alaska in 2013, his memoirs were published in the book Alaska (2013).

Rahmi M. Koç and his passion for the sea

After the tour, all of our worldviews changed. We began to see the world differently. We understood better the importance of our lives and our health. We learnt to live together. We learnt about different cultures. When we compared them to our own homeland we saw that our country was incredible. I had been planning this trip since my childhood. But for various reasons we were a little late. After this type of trip, your way of looking at everything changes.
I love the sea because it makes me forget everything else. When you are on the sea, all you do is concentrate—that is the thing, you have to. Problems, crew, things to buy and sell; that’s what takes all your attention. The sea is very calming, it makes you healthy, and what is very interesting is that it’s addictive: you throw yourself into big winds and storms and you say, “never again”, but after you approach the harbor you forget everything, indeed soon afterwards that desire to go reappears...
Interview with Ayşe Arman, Hürriyet, June 29, 2008

 Rahmi M. Koç has been voted the year’s most successful business person or industrialist on countless occasions by various institutions and groups, and he has received numerous taxpayer’s awards, certificates of appreciation and plaques. His accolades include: the German Federal Republic Order of High Merit (1982), the Turkish Republic State Outstanding Service Medal (1997), the ICC Turkey National Committee and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) International Success Award (2000), the Republic of Italy Order of High Merit (2001), the Republic of Austria Order of Major Service (2003), the Republic of Italy’s Commendatore Medal (2006), the British Empire Order of Excellence (Commander’s Medal) (2011) and French Officier dans l'Ordre National de la Legion D'Honneur.

In addition, Rahmi M. Koç has been awarded with honorary doctorates by Johns Hopkins University (1998), Eskişehir Anadolu University (1998), Izmir Ege University (1999), Ankara Bilkent University (2000), Constanta Ovidius University (2001) and Aydın Adnan Menderes University (2008).

He took a close interest in the American Hospital, joining the board of directors in 1966. A heart and vascular surgery intensive care unit opened in 1991 was named in his honor, as well as the Rahmi M. Koç Üçağız Elementary School in Kekova, which opened in 1987. In 2016, Koç University began the Rahmi M. Koç Science Medal of Science award program to reward leading scientists with Turkish backgrounds who have contributed to universal knowledge either inside or outside the country.

Rahmi M. Koç was president of the Rotary Club in Turkey between 1976 and 1977, a Beşiktaş J.K. Congress member, and a member of the Istanbul/Turkey Open Seas Yacht Club and the yacht clubs in New York, Monaco and Biscayne Bay.

He married Çiğdem Meserretçioğlu (later Simavi) in 1960 and the couple had three sons—Mustafa V. Koç (b. 1960 – d. 2016), Ömer M. Koç (b. 1962) and Ali Y. Koç (b. 1967)—and four grandchildren (see Koç family).

Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.