CEO of Trump's Turkish Partner Resigns, Replaced by Outsider

  • Yagmur Satana becomes Dogan CEO after Soner Gedik steps down
  • Gedik was with Dogan for almost 30 years; became CEO last year

Turkey’s Dogan Holding, owner of the Trump Towers in Istanbul, said it appointed an outsider as board member and acting chief executive after the resignation of Soner Gedik, who served for just over a year.

Gedik had been CEO of the conglomerate, which has interests in sectors including media, energy and tourism, since January 2016. The group’s media outlets, which include Turkey’s flagship daily Hurriyet and the TV channel CNN-Turk, have put it in near-constant conflict with Turkey’s government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan for about a decade.

Dogan said in a statement late on Monday that it would name Yagmur Satana, formerly a board member for power plant operator Aksa Enerji, to replace Gedik as CEO and board member. Satana, born in 1963, has a background in banking, having previously worked at Turkish lenders Finansbank AS and Fibabanka AS.

He takes the helm of a company whose fortunes have ebbed and flowed with political tides. Once Turkey’s dominant media group in terms of both market share and influence, Dogan Holding has been slapped with a multi-billion dollar tax fine, forced to sell assets and adjust coverage amid frequent run-ins with Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted ruling party. Erdogan has said the group stands for an “old Turkey" that he’s trying to replace, referring to the typically secular business elite that had long dominated Turkish politics and business.

Enter Trump

Dogan became even more deeply enmeshed in politics when Donald J. Trump, during his campaign for U.S. president, announced a proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Erdogan, who’d attended the opening of the Trump Towers in Istanbul himself in 2012, called for Trump’s name to be removed from the buildings. Such criticism of the U.S. real estate developer died down when Trump won the election, with Turkish officials hoping for better relations under his administration.

U.S.-Turkey ties under President Barack Obama were largely defined by tension between the two NATO allies, in particular over strategy in Syria and Turkey’s request that the U.S. extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan says Gulen, a Turkish preacher, has been leading efforts to overthrow him from his compound in Pennsylvania, where he lives in self-imposed exile.

Gedik’s predecessor as CEO, Yahya Uzdiyen, was detained last month along with Dogan’s Ankara representative Barbaros Muratoglu and its chief legal officer, Ekrem Turgut Yucel. They were charged with connections to the Gulen movement, which Erdogan blames for a coup attempt against him last July. Yucel and Uzdiyen were released under judicial control, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 13.

Dogan shares were unchanged at 0.82 liras at 10:50 a.m. in Istanbul. They’re up 7.9 percent this year, underperforming the 14 percent gain on the Borsa Istanbul 100.

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