The man who was Turkey’s richest has lost his top slot.

A reversal of fortune has afflicted Mehmet Karamehmet, whose net worth is now, says Forbes Turkey, down to a mere $2.9bn from $4bn last year.

According to the magazine’s list of Turkey’s most well-heeled people, Karamehmet’s fortune was edged out by the $3bn of Husnu Ozyegin, who sold his Finansbank to National Bank of Greece in a €5bn deal in 2006 and who remains involved in finance, retail and other sectors through his Fiba holding group.

It is not the first time Ozyegin has gone ahead of Karamehmet, a cellphones-to-oil magnate whose wealth is much more volatile.

Karamehmet was worth closer to $8bn a decade or so ago, before a big banking crisis intervened. What is perhaps most remarkable is that, rather than being wiped out completely, he has kept in the game, ever hungry for a deal.

These are tough times however. In 2010, Karamehmet was sentenced to almost 12 years in jail for alleged fraud related to the collapse of Pamukbank, a bank he previously controlled – but the conviction was overturned. He now faces a retrial.

More immediately, a court in the British Virgin Islands has told Karamehmet’s Cukurova group to come up with $1.4bn to maintain its controlling stake in Turkcell, Turkey’s biggest cellular group, during a court case appeal to the UK privy council.

In a recent email to the FT, Karamehmet challenged that decision, saying he was appealing the court order as well as a previous court decision on the underlying case.

What makes the dispute even more piquant is that at present no one really exercises effective control over Turkcell – Karamehmet is at loggerhead with Alfa, the Russian group, which claims the shares in dispute, as well as with TeliaSonera, the Nordic telecoms company. And because of the row, no dividends are being paid.

Still, Karamehmet has signalled his determination to hold on the shares. $1.4bn may represent a big chunk out of his now rather diminished fortune, but it seems the Cukurova boss thinks the shares are worth every penny.

Related reading:
Profile: Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, FT
Turkcell’s owner to find $1.4bn or lose control, FT
Alfa-Cukurova dispute takes new turn, beyondbrics
Turkey file, beyondbrics

Get alerts on Emerging markets when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article