GULER SABANCI'S SPEECH AT THE CITIBANK-AKBANK PARTNERSHIP GALA DINNER

07-05-2007

Thank you 
Phil Gramm, Chairman of the Dinner Committee
   Murat Köprülü, President of the American Turkish Society
   Our partners
   and Ladies and Gentlemen for joining us for this occasion

It is indeed an honor to receive the ATS “Corporate Partnership” award here in the Starlight Roof of Waldorf Astoria together with Mr. Charles Prince. The Starlight Roof brings back emotional memories for me.

Some of you will remember that in 1999 my late uncle, Mr Sakip Sabancı, received the “Outstanding Businessman and Philanthropist Award” from Mr. Ahmet Ertegun, then Chairman of FABSIT, Friends of the American Board Schools in this very same room…I remember, both charmingly exceptional men in their own professions. What you will not know, however, is that my uncle had dined and danced with my aunt Turkan, again in this very same room, during their honeymoon back in 1957….!  I am sure Mika and Ahmet also have very similar memories under this roof.

FABSIT is an outstanding example of long lasting and successful Turkish American relations. It is interesting that one of the better known secondary schools supported by FABSIT is the Tarsus American School. Several members of my family, including Erol Sabancı who is the Chairman of Akbank, were educated at Tarsus since the origins of my family and our business is in the same region of Turkey. 

In particular, that is where one will find the roots of our philanthropic tradition as well as the roots of our businesses and, of course, Akbank.  These roots are best summarized by two inscriptions on the tombstone of my grandfather, Haci Omer Sabancı, who is buried in Adana, not far from Tarsus:

One reads:
“hilekarlık ahmaklık, gurur eşekliktir” which roughly translates as:
“deceitfulness is stupidity, vanity is foolhardy”
And the second says:
“bu topraklardan kazandığımızı, bu toprağın insanlarıyla paylaşmalıyız” which means “we should aim to share with the people of this country what we have gained from this land”.

Complexity and integration in all walks of life have reached such levels that claiming one has all the knowledge and skills needed to succeed is in vain; …and as my grandfather said, ‘vanity is foolhardy….’

In an age where transparency is the norm and information travels as fast as lightning, deception may serve you once but will ruin a name forever; ….and as my grandfather said, ‘… deceitfulness is stupidity….’

Any competitive system will allow some to advance much faster than others, indeed that is its strong point… but it also implies some will be left behind….  A society that does not provide the opportunity of rebounding, in particular through education, to its less fortunate members will soon be an unhappy, and ultimately dysfunctional one… so, as my grandfather said, ‘…we should aim to share…..’


These simple but profound principles underlie what has allowed us to become a world class organization both in our business endeavors with our partnerships as well as in our philanthropy. 

…. The ability to find the right partner in fulfilling our vision as well as the ability to sustain and nurture these partnerships….  Our history and development is a testament to this skill.

And by ‘the right partner’, I do not mean merely finding an investor that will share the financial risk of any venture… having something to contribute to a ‘task’ is obviously important and a ‘sine qua non’…

… but rather, I am referring to the intangibles; the meeting of minds, a common vision of where we’d like to go and how we can get there, a sharing of values, a common conception of quality, the elegance of minds… people with which one would enjoy not just a formal lunch but a friendly dinner such as tonight.
When our university museum considered entering into an international partnership, we chose the Louvre,… not based just on financial considerations but because we shared a common conception of quality, of values, of a vision, and of the importance of protecting a heritage….. 

Similarly, when we chose a partner for Akbank, it is not by coincidence that we chose the Louvre of the financial world…..
 
But the process of setting the foundations of a mutually beneficial and sustainable partnership requires the efforts of many gifted people....  and I am grateful to many....   Mr. Erol Sabancı and Charles Prince for their vision and for their wisdom in knowing where to insist and where to compromise, Senator Phil Gramm and Mr. Christos Sclavounis for fulfilling the right role in between our organizations and of course to Suzan Sabancı Dincer, Zafer Kurtul and the Akbank team together with Sir Win Bischoff , Mr. Zion Shohet and the Citigroup team who deftly combined analytical and strategic skills and by doing so demonstrated a successful start up of a partnership.

Like all partnerships, ours also… still require nurturing….. but I am sure the teams in place who have proven that the future of Akbank is in capable hands, shall also have the caliber and intention of doing that .

…and I have no doubt that 10 years from now, when we are back in this Starlight Roof, which is on its way of becoming a tradition, we will be fêting successes that none of us are even thinking about today….

Once again, I would like to thank the Committee and the Members of the ATS for organizing such a pleasant evening and honoring us with the “Corporate Partnership” award.