Vehbi Koç’s opening remarks on the first general meeting of Koç Holding
(February 24, 1964, Merkez Han, Beyoğlu, Istanbul)
It is 3 p.m. on Monday, February 24th. We gathered here for a meeting of the general board of Koç Holding, which was announced in the Commercial Registry Gazette on December 11, 1963: a company with a history of twenty days as of New Year. I would like to take this occasion to share some words with you.
This is the most important moment of my commercial career.
In the autumn of 1916, we set to work on my father’s behalf as Koçzade Hacı Mustafa Rahmi with a 120 lira fund, selling groceries at Karaoğlan Bazaar. As the years passed, the shop changed its line of business and in 1926, it was transferred to me by my late father who believed I could do the job. It was registered with the Chamber of Commerce and I began working as Koçzade Ahmet Vehbi.
My business progressed year by year and so I decided to make it a joint stock company. After consulting some expert friends, eleven years after taking the company on, I founded Koç Ticaret A.Ş. in July 1937. Our company continued to grow a little more every year with the support of valued colleagues and we established joint stock and limited companies with the profits.
On the one hand I was working and on the other, I was scrutinizing the state of companies that had been established before mine, both at home and abroad. A large number of companies founded in Turkey before and during my lifetime, organizations such as Abdurrahman Naci Demirağ, Bekir Kara, Avunduk and Ali Albayrak, fell apart following the deaths of their founders.
I observed how large European companies had managed to stay on their feet for many years. I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to ensure that the business could exist without me. From 1948 onwards, I had our financial and judicial laws analyzed.
As the establishment of a foundation that contained the holding didn’t comply with our civil law, we tried for years to get a special law passed rather than setting up a holding liable to double corporation tax, but to no avail. Eventually, in 1961, the situation was resolved, we accelerated our attempts to establish a holding and finally succeeded.
We will only be able to establish the foundation we envisage if a special law is introduced. Until that time, philanthropic work will continue with the revenue from stocks worth five million lira, which are from my own shares in the holding.
Our most important intentions in founding the holding are:
- To ensure that after my death, this organization, which so much work has gone into, will continue.
- Binding those who work in the company today, and who will work in the company in the future, to the organization by selling them shares.
- Providing for the futures of those who leave the company by recognizing the value of social issues within the holding.
Personally, I am very happy to be establishing the holding. Today, the board consists of 48 founding partners in this building, in the future there will be thousands. Koç Holding will continue to grow and be the largest private sector organization in Turkey. The public and the government will see how beneficial it is to the country and keep hold of it. But what matters more than all of this is that it will be an example for those who come after us, many more holdings will be established, and this country will continue to progress.
Take the balance sheet from global company Siemens for its first year of operations. Like us, it began with a fund that was small by the standards of the day. We also began with a small fund and we, too, are progressing.
When the holding was founded, with the exception of a few acquaintances, I received support from a large number of people. I would like to thank them.
People are mortal. One day, I will leave the business for some reason or another. Up to ten years after the founding of the holding, many important duties will fall to my wife, my children, my sons-in-law and the incumbent administrative colleagues.
From the age of 17, I worked day and night for 46 years, and this is where I have arrived. Now I am handing it over to you. If you want me to rest in peace, you must carry this organization on. It must not fall apart due to petty whims.
Don’t bring in talentless, incapable men who are slaves to their personal opinions and caprices. The success of all companies is carried on the shoulders of capable people. Companies we work with today, such as Ford, Siemens and General Electric, are the best examples of this.
Follow the same path as these companies.
It has taken me 10 years to achieve the ideas that came to me during the Yalova meeting in 1954. And I am very grateful. There’s still plenty of work to do within the company. And it’s our duty to effect this as soon as we can.
I’d like to end by offering you all my respect and affection.
Vehbi Koç, Hayat Hikâyem (My Life Story), 4th Edition, Vehbi Koç Vakfı Yayınları, Istanbul, 1983, pp. 94-101