GC Powerlist Turkey 2017
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GC Powerlist > GC Powerlist: Turkey 2017
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For 30 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Turkey, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across Turkey, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each list. The GC Powerlist: Turkey features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from those in-house lawyers about how they have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Turkey, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Turkey or global), please do get in touch at email@example.com.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
GC Powerlist: Turkey 2017
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Türk Hava Yolları (Turkish Airlines)
Chief legal officer
Legal affairs and compliance manager
Senior legal counsel
Director of legal and corporate relations
Sevda Aydın Alemdar
Senior legal counsel
Melis Alkan Bölükbaşı
Country senior legal manager Turkey
Metlife Emeklilik ve Hayat
Chief legal counsel
Özlem Akyüz Atamer
Head of legal
Group legal counsel
Director of legal affairs
Doğan Müzik Kitap Mağazacılık ve Pazarlama (D&R)
Legal and government relations director, board member
Procter & Gamble Turkey and Caucasus
Zehra Betul Ayranci
Legal counsel head of International legal affairs
TV8 and Acun Medya
General counsel and company secretary
Melis Coşan Baban
Assistant general manager, head of legal affairs
Türk Ekonomi Bankası (TEB)
Legal adviser and head of legal
Chief legal officer
TOFAŞ-Türk Otomobil Fabrikası
Senior counsel - director
Philip Morris International
Head of legal for international law and consultancy
Chief legal counsel and vice president
ALD Automotive Türkiye
Tuba Çetin Alpa
Senior lawyer- head of the legal department
Zeynep Candan Çetiner
Head of legal affairs
Head of legal and compliance
Chief legal counsel
Executive vice president - legal and regulation
Nazli Dereli Oba
Cemile Gunes Dinlenmis
Group legal director
Ali Murat Dizdar
Executive vice president - chief legal counsel
Ahmet İlker Doğan
Vice president - general counsel
Burcu Sönmezyalçın Döker
General counsel, compliance officer and data protection official
Media Markt Turkey
Director of legal affairs
Tuna Yasin Doyuk
Legal affairs manager
Neşe Kaya Durak
General counsel and corporate secretary
Head of legal affairs
Yandex Reklamcılık (Yandex Turkey)
Chief legal advisor
Chief legal officer
Gamze Gökçen Pilevne
Chief legal counsel
Nilüfer Türkçü Hıra
Head legal counsel
Berç Germeyan Isik
Head of legal
Shell & Turcas Petrol
Mehmet Emin Karaağaç
Legal affairs and credit risk liquidation
Head of legal and compliance, country general counsel
Legal affairs and investor relations director
Halil İbrahim Kardıçalı
Managing legal counsel
GAMA Power Systems Engineering & Contracting
Ahmet Serdar Kayhan
Chief legal advisor
Head of legal and corporate compliance officer
Senior legal counsel
Mondelēz International Turkey
Zeynep Derman Küçükönder
Legal director – Turkey, Caucasus and Central Asia
Chief legal counsel
Country legal lead
Esma Gül Nalbantoğlu Kocaman
Vice president legal
Deputy legal counsel - legal department
Chief legal counsel
Burak Ismail Okay
Legal affairs coordinator and chief legal officer
Legal director Turkey and North Africa area
British American Tobacco
Chief legal counsel
General counsel and company secretary
Özgür Ozan Döker
Legal assistant general manager
Senem Berkem Paflak
Head of legal and compliance
Borusan EnBW Energy
Buse Pinar Kaçar
Chief legal and corporate affairs officer
Eda Okay Riehl
Regional compliance officer
Cemal Aybars Sanal
Assistant general manager - legal affairs
Yapi ve Kredi Bankası
Vice president and legal counsel
Oğuz Sami Sarıkaya
Head of legal
LUKOIL Eurasia Petrol
Chief legal officer
Chief legal officer
Burcu Şener Sözer
Head of legal
Chief legal counsel
Otoyol Yatırım ve İşletme
Ruken Taşkıran Canbekte
Legal manager of International corporate Issues
Yapi ve Kredi Bankası
Head of legal and compliance
Volkswagen Doğuş Finansman
Country general counsel and integrity officer
Miraç Ucankale Yuce
Senior legal officer
Chief legal counsel
Director, legal affairs
Head legal counsel
Türk Hava Yolları (Turkish Airlines)
Ruşen Gürlük Yarpınar
EWE Turkey Holding
Yelda Dogan Yasarturk
Cluster legal director for Turkey, Near East and direct distribution markets
Chief legal counsel
Zeynep Gazzali Yilmazer
Legal affairs director
Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP)
Emel Yılmaz Özbay
Chief legal counsel - executive vice president
Erem Turgut Yücel
Chief legal counsel
Doğan Şirketler Grubu Holding
Funda Zeynep Ekincioğlu
Legal and compliance director
Chief legal officer and legal director
Akkök Sanayi Yatırım ve Geliştirme
Ceyda Akbal currently leads the legal department at TAV Airports Holding, a company established in 1997 as a joint venture of Tepe, Akfen and Airport Consulting Vienna and won the tender for the Istanbul Ataturk International Airport in the same year. As the general counsel Akbal has led a legal team composed of four in-house lawyers since April 2012, centralising the legal consultancy activities within all of the TAV group of companies. Joining TAV Airports Holding in 2009 as a legal counsel, Akbal was promoted to her current position as general counsel after only three years. This role has been one of the highpoints of her career: ‘it is a richness for a lawyer to work as a legal expert in a niche sector like the management of airport operations, which covers a wide range of areas including retail, security, food and beverage and IT’. Central to the TAV Airports Holding’s expansion plans, most recently Akbal has assisted on opening a new 12,000-square metre terminal at Tbilisi Airport. Over the course of her legal career, Akbal has had the chance to work on major international projects along with the largest and most important finance corporations, being a main part of the their international growth and development.
During her eight year career at Turkish Airlines, Ayşe Akcan has worked on nearly 250 aircraft and engine financings, aircraft purchase agreements and a variety of other matters in both international and Turkish law. Her transactional work over this period has received wide industry recognition. For instance, her work on Turkey’s first enhanced equipment trust certificates (EETC) financing deal for the financing of three new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, with a certificate amount of nearly $329m, has led to the company receiving the “Runner-up International Bond Deal of the Year” award at the Global Financial Conferences in 2015. Akcan also received praise for her work to ratify the application of the Cape Town Convention in Turkey by leading the Turkish Airlines and Turkish Civil Aviation Authority, and becoming the first Transacting User Entity (TUE) Administrator in the country. At present, Akcan is involved in examining agreements for the purchase of 40 brand new Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliner” aircraft – a deal which could be worth up to $11bn. This year, she also made an impression with her work on improving the operating efficiency of the legal department by making a suggestion to company management to introduce specialization groups. ‘I believe such a change will lead to us having a much more dynamic structure with a standardised and faster business flow,’ she explains. ‘Company management has decided to consider this suggestion and took the first steps to apply them by the beginning of 2018’.
With a unique position in the Turkish economy as Turkey’s only oil refiner, Tüpraş produces tens of billions of Turkish Lira in revenue each year through its oil refinery operations and is a subsidiary of the Koç Holding Group. Chief legal officer Can Akcaoglu is able to support these business processes through his dispensation of timely and accurate legal advice, mainly relating to his specialities of: corporate law, M&As, energy law, competition law, telecommunications law, legal compliance, and insurance law. Akcaoglu joined Tüpraş in 2016 after a five year spell at insurance company MAPFRE, where he was legal affairs director and general secretary of the board of directors, evincing both his legal knowledge and managerial skills. He also practiced at international law firm Dentons between 2007 and 2011 as an associate.
N11.com is an e-commerce platform founded in March 2013 by Dogus Planet that offers a wide range of apparel, electronics, and home products. Legal and corporate leadership at the company is dispensed through Dilek Akdaş in her role of legal affairs and compliance manager. With the website having more than 8.5m subscribers and making around 35m products available, there is plenty of work for its in-house lawyer to demonstrate her skills on, which has in turn enabled her to become one of the leading lawyers in Turkey’s e-commerce sector. Having worked at N11.com from its inception as a start-up, Akdaş has developed company policies, established legal practice and formulated legal precedents to minimise legal risks and comply with local laws. She is currently leading the company’s legal compliance project following the adoption of the Law on Protection of Personal Data by the Turkish government in 2016. Having oversight over all aspects of the legal remit as well as having an important leadership position within the N11.com, Akdaş will be crucial to the future growth of the company as it attempts to boost its global profile. In addition to her corporate legal role and further demonstrating her credentials in the sector, Akdaş instructs at Istanbul Bilgi University on information and technology law.
A Turkish construction company worth over TRY 7.8bn, Istanbul-based Enka İnşaat ve Sanayi (ENKA) has 37 separate subsidiaries that are present in a diverse range of activities that include a number of different legal practice areas and risks to mitigate against. At the forefront of these challenges is senior legal counsel Kaan Aksu, who in addition to the wide range of agreements pertaining to the company’s business, deals with the management of outside counsel in arbitration and litigation issues both domestically and internationally in addition to the provision of general legal advice.
Lawyer of 26 years Tülay Aktan is responsible for setting up, maintaining and providing legal advisory services to the entirety of domestic and foreign operations of Efe İçecek, a producer of popular alcoholic drinks in Turkey. In this capacity, Aktan leads the creation of collaborative and mutually beneficial operations with government entities, legislative and regulatory bodies and other key external stakeholders. Over the years, Aktan has developed and defined the legal standards and policy framework of the organisation to ensure that a culture of compliance, integrity and legal ethics is maintained in the company. Aktan exhibits strong multi-disciplinary skills in developing and executing strategies for creating a sustainable corporate image and maintaining critical external relations. Aktan has impressed the business with her ability to navigate complex deals and regulatory challenges in the food sector, adopting in-depth knowledge of the technical details concerning the regulation, and understanding of the underlying causes. Aktan takes great pride in the development of the legal department she has helped to build, ensuring that favourable results are obtained for the company, specifically in the competition law area: ‘For me the importance of the in-house lawyer does not reside in the personal, but rather in successfully gaining the company’s objectives at any given moment’ says Aktan. A measure of her success is that during her tenure she has been able to effectively manage the risks, benefits and opportunities during large scale projects while communicating this to the company. Maintaining this transparent and ‘perfect’ relationship between the government and other corporations, reaching significant results and contributing to the business has helped her attain positive feedback from key business members. Internally, Aktan has also created policies to make the legal department more effective, efficient and cost-conscious: ‘One of my defining tasks was the implementation of a law-firm structure within the legal department, where the team members are organised in line with my expertise’, she explains.
Having started her in-house legal career at PepsiCo Snacks in 2008, Sevda Aydın Alemdar has since become a key figure in the in-house legal department at the global food and beverage company in Turkey. Both Alemdar and her manager undertook the task of creating and structuring the department from scratch, setting ‘the department not as an approval authority but a department that takes part in every stage of the business form the beginning to the end’ which ‘helped us to be seen as a business partner in our colleagues’ eyes. We paid attention to walk with our in-house clients along the path’, she says. In 2011 Alemdar proved her cross-collaborative and deal skills when working on PepsiCo’s merger process with its bottling company, in doing so collaborating ‘very closely with the HR team to merge two different departments/companies and structuring the new organisation’. She also highlights “Project Naturalis”, where she worked closely with the Agro team to ‘transform the waste product of the company’s potatoes plants to fertiliser and selling the fertiliser to potatoe suppliers. The project has excited me especially on environmental sustainability’. She has also worked on the PepsiCo Turkey’s litigation reporting process, of which she says, ‘I have been pursuing [this] for the last three years, and it has given me the chance to understand the financial structure of the company and contributed very much to analysing the process. I understood the importance of winning or losing a lawsuit may change due to the timing of reporting it. If you have reported the relevant departments that the chance of winning the case is decreasing then you are on the right path. Thus, I think outside counsel management and reporting is one the essential issues an in-house counsel needs to deal with’. Alemdar cites three of the most important activities she’s been involved in during the past three years as working on a large internal termination process, delivering an antitrust awareness test and Albatros online orientation programme to the business and helping initiate a Tracking and Bad Debt Collection Process to decrease conflicts with customers and also increase the collection ratio.
Now the most senior lawyer of wind power specialist Polat Enerji, Melis Alkan Bölükbaşı began working at the prestigious Aksu & Savaş & Çalışkan Law Office following her graduation from Galatasaray University, building up a wealth of experience in the project finance and banking areas over the course of her seven-year career there from 2007 onwards. In 2014, Alkan Bölükbaşı moved to Polat Enerji, and established herself within the company quickly. Indeed, she mentions ‘working directly with the top management of the company’ there as a particular career highlight, as it allowed her to develop ‘a clearer understanding of decision making mechanisms within a company’. She mentions that another positive element of her in-house role when compared to external work is ‘having financial and accounting points of view’ to draw from. This, she explains, prompted her to start to ‘consider agreements and legal documents not only from a legal point of view but also from financial and accounting points of view’, allowing him to tailor legal advice to the best business needs of the company. Alkan Bölükbaşı has also worked on a number of high-profile projects during the course of her time with Polat Enerji: ‘In particular, I recall the financing (Commercial Facility and ECA) of the development and construction of the 100MW Soma 3 Power Plant in 2014, and the preparation and participation to the 1000 MW Wind YEKA Tender from March to August this year’.
Beginning her career with consulting firm Yurttutan Topsakal Yörüker, Öykü Api quickly gained valuable experience in commercial, corporate and competition matters and helped her to ‘identify the most important elements’ of legal work that would help her in her future career. She then moved to banking institution Deniz Emeklilik, who were then taken over by American Life and renamed to MetLife. Api had a major role in this, and recalls that she ‘was in charge of leading the legal merger process’. While this was ‘a huge responsibility’, Api is convinced that this challenge was ‘a very good opportunity to grow [her] leadership skills’. When summing up the characteristics that have allowed her to achieve success throughout her career, Api explains that she is a ‘business-oriented person who likes delivering results for internal and external clients’ first and foremost, and this has fed into the rest of her work. Alongside her role in the aforementioned Metlife acquisition, Api cites ‘assisting the coordination of global data privacy projects within EMEA countries’ as a particular career highlight.
Founded in 1993 in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Rönesans Holding currently operates in Turkey, CIS, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Eda Arıcıoğlu was hired by the company in 2015 as a legal counsel, and after just over one year was promoted to the position of chief legal counsel. A lawyer well regarded for her expertise in supporting real estate projects and transactions, Arıcıoğlu currently leads a team that supports the holding’s efforts to build shopping malls, hotels, residences, composite structures, industry plants and other real estate as a main constructor and investor. Described by colleagues as a ‘cooperative’ and ‘solution oriented’ expert, Arıcıoğlu works at the forefront of some of the most complex and challenging property projects in the region. Arıcıoğlu was formerly employed as a legal counsel and subsequently legal manager at ECE Turkey. She started her professional legal career at White & Case in 2000.
Canan Arslan currently stands as the head of the legal department in Turkey for US multinational biopharmaceutical company Amgen and its subsidiary Mustafa Nevzat İlaç, a leading local pharmaceutical company with approximately 1,000 employees. Arslan is also responsible for the export business of Mustafa Nevzat İlaç, which extends to five regions covering 70% of the world’s pharmaceutical market. Arslan explains that accomplishing business goals in such a highly regulated industry requires practical, integrated legal analysis and advice which has contributed significantly to her growth and success as a pharmaceutical in-house counsel: ‘I feel lucky to have started my in-house career in the pharmaceutical sector, which is one of the most dynamic and fast-growing industries in Turkey. It also remains one of the most challenging, mainly due to pressures faced by pharmaceutical companies from many directions’. In addition to her in-house daily role she is also a board member in the two companies: ‘My role as a board member has helped me gain a completely different perspective and allows for a 360-degree view of things’, she says. This role has helped Arslan to position herself as a proactive legal and business risk manager, anticipating actions and key contributions long before an issue arises, as opposed to playing a reactive advisory role. Establishing the legal department for both entities under her responsibility, which ‘has never had a culture of working with in-house counsel until then’ has been a challenging task in terms of creating awareness about issues that may potentially require legal advice and demonstrating the contribution and value added by the legal department to the business. It is here where Arslan takes pride in changing the attitude towards the legal department and shedding the ‘business-blocker’ perception, something which necessitated an intellectual and cultural change and the development of trust on the side of both parties. ‘I have gone a long way towards [achieving] this goal, yet this is an ongoing process which requires continuous improvement on the side of the business and the in-house counsel’, explains Arslan. Before Amgen and Mustafa Nevzat İlaç, Arslan spent two years in the Turkish legal department of German conglomerate Bayer – her first in-house legal role in the healthcare sector. She also enjoyed a successful eight year private practice career between 2003 and 2011 working at reputable law firms such as ELIG Attorneys at Law and White & Case.
Head of legal Özlem Akyüz Atamer is the most senior lawyer and leads a legal team of five at Kale Holding, a conglomerate that initially pioneered the ceramics industry in Turkey but now invests in machinery and equipment manufacturing for a diverse range of industries including defence, chemistry, electrical appliances, energy, IT and transportation. The advice with which Atamer dispenses is amidst a background of diverse regulations that come with working for a conglomerate that operates internationally in a number of sectors. Known especially for her facilitation of clear communication lines that exist internally, Atamer explains: ‘the competence of our team is very high for communicating and negotiating with colleagues all around the world. Therefore, we are involved directly with business transactions abroad and guided through them with our foreign colleagues’.
Since joining the Turkish conglomerate Kurum Holding, Ugur Ates overhauled the legal function, clearly specifying the roles and responsibilities of each member of the team, while simultaneously ensuring that they are aware of the work within the entire function. This according to Ates has largely been achieved by creating a ‘transparent environment with a strong team spirit’, whereby lawyers can ‘openly contribute at every subject that the legal department deals’. Positioned in close proximity to senior management, Ates contributes actively to strategic initiatives and has recently convincing his board to apply to court for restructuring the company’s debts, hence saving the company from bankruptcy. During his previous role at Digiturk, a large television provider in Turkey, Ates impressed with his support of the seller’s part of the acquisition of the company by Be Group, which took nearly two years to complete and is at present the largest media M&A transaction in Turkey. ‘This deal was one of the most important highlights of my in-house career, since it helped me see how big the impact of an in-house lawyer can be not only on one company, but on an entire sector,’ Ates asserts. At the onset of his career, Ates spent five years in the Aksan and Serap Zuvin Law Offices in Istanbul.
Newly appointed director of legal affairs İrem Aydın has already made a number of changes as a leader of the legal department of D&R, one of the biggest conglomerates in Turkey. In her short time there Aydın has already arranged meetings with the six other departments of the company and prepared and presented a legal risk prevention strategy to the CEO. She has a vast combination of experiences in a number of sectors and positions, something she claims has helped her to ‘roll with the punches of the business world’. During her legal career, Aydın has facilitated a number of transactions and litigations including the sale of 30% shares of the third biggest integrated port of Turkey and the biggest port of the Aegean Sea to Goldman Sachs for $250m, as well as preparations for the engineering procurement and construction contract for the $55m valued wind park project of PETKIM. Prior to her current role, Aydın started her legal career at Esin Attorney Partnership, and during this time Aydın was part of successful million dollar M&A projects. The three years of experience she gained in this legal firm helped her to later lead and complete two major M&A deals at SOCAR as a corporate legal affairs manager; one of which was the sale of 13% shares of the holding company to Goldman Sachs for $1.3bn.
Lawyer of over 20 years Ozge Ayoz joined Procter & Gamble (P&G) Switzerland in 2000 as a senior legal counsel for EMEA. After three years her role expanded to cover a range of regions within P&G operations, assuming a position as associate director and associate general counsel for Turkey, Caucasus, Arabian Peninsula and Pakistan. Ayoz reveals that this role grew her professional mastery and soft skills in Turkey: ‘It helped me to become an in-house lawyer without borders and developed my technical mastery, building diverse and collaborative relationships both internally and externally. It also educated me on how to bring legal solutions and create legal value across territories as an in-house lawyer in a multinational company’. Now as the legal leader of the Turkish arm of the US multinational consumer goods company, Ayoz has proven herself to be a dedicated leader who has created and maintained a high-performing team of five who are highly focused on supporting P&G’s business goals with end-to-end involvement in business planning, product launches and corporate restructuring projects. Thanks to Ayoz, the legal department is recognised as ‘indispensable business partners’ that leverages its technical mastery to guide the business with creative legal solutions to help deliver goals. Ayoz has positioned the legal team to be central to the transactional work of P&G in the region, with herself having a leadership role on multiple fronts. Ayoz is a board member of the company, and the rest of the legal department are members of functional leadership teams, working together with business leaders regularly.
Well-accomplished media and broadcasting lawyer Zehra Betul Ayranci can boast an imposing career, having represented Fortune 500 companies and leading global companies in the technology, media, entertainment and sports industries regarding trademark, copyright and contract law related matters in Turkey. She also has a history of successfully leading Turkish holding companies in their operations in other jurisdictions especially in the US. Taking some time out to complete her postgraduate studies at the University Of California School Of Law as the only Turkish grantee of a Fulbright Scholarship for a Master of Laws course, Ayranci returned to Turkey in late 2015 and was offered the role of legal counsel at television station, TV8, specifically responsible for the international business and legal affairs in EMEA and Americas. In her role at TV8, Ayranci contributed to the drafting license, production, work-for-hire, talent, broadcasting, advertisement, sponsorship, product-integration, on and off-air marketing contracts and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) related to its portfolio of popular national television shows. Amongst her most notable and exciting roles, Ayranci worked for the Turkish Basketball Federation as an advisor assisting the legal sportive organisation and international relations department. ‘At the time, NBA was in lockout, therefore many NBA players came to Turkey to play in the Turkish league and the broadcasters in the US were not happy about the situation’. At this point, Ayranci led the communications with the NBA players association, major media companies and other stakeholders on behalf of Turkish Basketball Federation, reporting directly senior officials within the federation: ‘My role included taking actions against defamatory and misleading news and publications against Turkey and Turkish league, amongst other communication tasks’. Her sterling work on this gained significant praise not only internally but also from external stakeholders – she was asked soon after to be a member of the legal board of the Turkish Hockey Federation. Further to her practice as in-house counsel she also continues to independently author articles and books. In October 2017, Ayranci moved to the Netherlands to join Fox Networks Group as legal counsel working on sports acquisitions in Europe and Africa.
Leading a legal team of six other individuals, Meltem Azbazdar is both general counsel and company secretary of major spirits-producing company Mey İçki, which has been owned by Diageo since 2011. Azbazdar has had a huge impact on the progression of the legal team at Mey İçki since taking over in January 2014, and details some of these improvements: ‘The structure of the legal department has been re-organised to work in a way that a law firm operates. The work allocation is revised according to expertise of the lawyers in the department, and lawyers are appointed to one more business units, so that each business unit knows which lawyer to work with’. This more structured method of working has had a corresponding positive effect on internal reporting. ‘As the legal department performs like a law firm’, Azbazdar explains, ‘we keep a log of the legal work and communicate this in numbers, whilst reporting to senior management’. This allows areas that potentially require improvements to be identified, and a steady increase in efficiency has been achieved by the legal function. This restructuring, combined with the fact that Azbazdar is a member of the executive committee of the company and all members of the legal team have contact with the committee and CEO, means that coordination between the legal function and the decision-making elements of the business is very high. Azbazdar and her expert marshalling of the team during the course of her employment with Mey İçki can take a huge share of the credit for this achievement.
Founded in 1927, Türk Ekonomi Bankası (TEB) has established itself as one of Turkey’s most successful banks. Melis Coşan Baban moved to the company in 2005 in what was her first in-house role. Beginning her tenure at the financial services company as chief legal advisor and board general secretary, Baban had impressed her employers enough to expand her role in 2008 to a position she has maintained ever since. Baban has also been recognised by nominators for working on a number of landmark projects for TEB, in addition to helping the company achieve a number of milestones relating to the its growth plans. Prior to TEB, Baban was at law firm Pekin & Pekin for from 1998 onwards, spending the last five years of her tenure there as a partner.
For over a decade Ümit Başer ran his own personal law firm before joining Turkish real estate developer EYG Grup in 2014. Applying the principles of running a law firm to an in-house team, Başer developed the company’s legal department from scratch. ‘My first goal was to emphasise the importance of the legal unit by making it an active participant and the approving authority in all areas of the business, especially commerce, marketing, advertisement and human resources,’ Başer comments. ‘The moment I joined the company, I arranged meetings with the department supervisors to discuss my experience and potential problems to resolve. Subsequently, while preparing any contract or relevant legal documents, I have paid the utmost caution through taking into account the department supervisors’ experiences’. Working in synergy with senior level management, Başer enjoys a close professional work relation based on ‘mutual love and respect’. He explains: ‘I explain my standpoint about the business and legal risks and CEO decides for any action. The CEO is an innovator and open to new thoughts and ideas’. Başer’s inspirational leadership has also been fundamental to EYG Grup in its efforts of tackling economic problems encountered due to the depreciation of the Turkish Lira and subsequent decrease in real estate sales. ‘We made an arrangement to overtake some of the payments for those who bought a house and/or an office from our projects through a bank credit or with instalments and made this campaign known to advertisements,’ Başer says. ‘The campaign proved to be so successful that our sales increased. As a legal advisor of the group, I prepared the legal base and contracts of the new system that we implemented.’
TOFAŞ is the only Turkish automaker which manufactures both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, producing a total of 400,000 vehicles annually. As chief legal counsel at the company, Hakan Bekiroğlu reports directly to the chief executive officer and acts as a partner to all business units, advising them on a range of legal issues. Maintaining close working relationships with key stakeholder, Bekiroğlu takes a proactive approach in supporting and managing the legal and compliance risks of the company. Particular praise over Bekiroğlu’s nearly five-year term at the company has focused on his work to raise and defend litigation matters brought against the company, as well as his efforts to support the development of internal company policies and procedures aimed at mitigating risk. Before moving to TOFAŞ in 2013, Bekiroğlu managed the legal department of the heating, cooling and hot water company Vaillant Group. Prior to that he worked at Idea Law Office and Frito Lay Turkey.
With over 13 years of experience at tobacco giant Philip Morris International, Ahmet Berkan is one of the most trusted in-house advisers for the company in the region, having spent time in Istanbul and Dubai in the respective roles of legal counsel and senior counsel – director before assuming his current role. Recommended as a lawyer who possesses ‘outstanding skills and hardwork’ by nominating sources, Berkan is praised for his team leadership skills as well as the experience and knowledge he has gained on a ‘range of complex matters in a range of practice areas’. Berkan is also known for his ‘professionalism, passion for work, commitment and integrity. [Berkan] is always approachable and effectively works with all members of our team. These are just some of the factors that lead me to believe that this nomination and recognition is justified’. Berkan and other legal colleagues at the company will be moving away from its traditional products in the favour of smoking alternatives.
As head of legal for international law and consultancy at Halkbank, Murat Caglar is responsible for dealing with its international legal issues, as well as with its various affiliates and subsidiaries. As part of his role at Turkey’s sixth largest bank in terms of assets, Caglar works closely with Halkbank’s internal departments such as the international banking, treasury and project finance units to ensure his legal advice is tailored to the commercial aspirations of the business. Since joining Halkbank in 2014, Caglar has also been involved in a number of important company deals such as the acquisition of a 76.76% stake in Serbia’s Cacanska Bank, a significant milestone in Halkbank’s regional growth strategy. Before his current position, Caglar was acting as the legal head of BTA, a subsidiary of TAV (Tepe-Akfen) Group for three years. Whilst at Bank Asya between 2007 and 2011, Caglar gained recognition for advising his employers on international Murabaha syndications of $250m and $300m. In addition to his in-house legal roles, Caglar has worked in private practice and also teaches at universities in Istanbul as a visiting lecturer. He has authored several articles which were published in reputable legal journals.
Azra Çakıl, executive counsel for the Turkish business of international conglomerate GE, comes as a highly recommended legal professional thanks to her work on a variety of projects during her time at the company which extends back to 2011. A nominating source comments that Çakıl has ‘proven herself to be highly driven and efficient both as an individual and within a team, with a genuine understanding of their core business along with a unique sense of commercial awareness’. Going on to cite Çakıl’s constant offering of ‘sound judgment and reasoning’, the source also adds she is ‘never intimidated by the challenges or complex tasks at hand and these skills are not limited to the work environment’.A recent feature of Çakıl’s tenure at the company is working on a recent contract that ensures GE’s involvement in the manufacture of Turkey's largest generator transformer for TERNA (a member of GEK TERNA Group) at its Power Transformers factory in Gebze to be completed in 2018.
As a chief legal counsel and vice president Cem Çeliker is part of the critical decision-making function of ENKA, Turkey’s largest construction company with a turnover of $3.5bn in 2016, overseeing and managing many complex and international legal matters on various topics for different arms of the business. Working for a company with a workforce of over 30,000 people and more than 60 subsidiaries operating globally, Çeliker’s work is as diverse as the jurisdictions ENKA works in and requires him to handle a vast scope of legal matters, exposing him to a great deal of challenges that have encouraged his professional growth. He joined ENKA to take his current role in 2010 having excelled in private practice at the London offices of Shearman and Sterling for six years prior. Çeliker recognises and emphasises the need for a good understanding of the business in his legal team, investing in the continuous education and development of the personnel to prepare them for all regulatory and market changes, whilst factoring in its cost, time pressures, competitive realities and operating culture. A key feature of Çeliker’s time in-house at ENKA, therefore, has been transforming his legal team members from just technical experts to also being trusted advisors and a business partners.
Over the course of his seven year professional legal career, Seçkin Cemiloğlu has been exposed to handling a wide range of legal matters at both multinational and local companies. He is currently the group legal manager at the Turkish branch of ALD Automotive, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the French Société Générale Group and Europe’s leading operational leasing and fleet management company with 5,000 employees in 41 countries and a worldwide vehicle fleet of 1.3 million. In addition to representing the company before judicial and arbitral bodies, Cemiloğlu plays an important in drafting, reviewing and negotiating various kinds of commercial contracts and working with the CEO to guide the company from a legal perspective. ‘We always talk about recent legal processes and legislations that can affect our business and he is always keen too look at the business from a legal perspective’, he says. Further demonstrating his prowess in counselling the company on major developments, Cemiloğlu worked on ALD International’s IPO in 2017. Internally he has shifted perceptions of the legal department, simultaneously reducing the business’ reliance on external counsel. Before joining ALD Automotive in June 2016, Cemiloğlu had a brief spell as legal counsel at ECE Türkiye and a three year stint at Arçelik, a major durable consumer goods company and part of the Koç Holding conglomerate. A feature of his time as legal counsel at Arçelik between 2012 and 2015 was significantly reducing the amount of labour law cases, by influencing the HR team to pursue mutual agreements instead of arbitrations. Before moving in-house, Cemiloğlu worked at law firms Hemşinlioğlu and Eldem Law Office in Istanbul. He graduated in 2009 from Marmara University.
A seasoned legal professional with a comprehensive understanding of her company’s business, Tuba Çetin Alpa has served the legal department in the Turkish operations of US food conglomerate Cargill since 1998. In addition to creating the domestic legal department and streamlining its processes, Çetin’s work has contributed to the corporation’s regional growth. For instance in 2014, she was the lead lawyer on Cargill’s multimillion dollar acquisition of Alemdar Kimya and Turyağ. She has also been a key figure in Cargill’s joint ventures in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, whilst handling all litigations, issues relating to food and feed laws and dealing with cases filed by NGOs in Turkey against foreign investor’s permits. A prominent figure in the country’s legal in-house market, Çetin is also credited for having the ability to provide consultancy to finance departments, having dealt with trade structured finance transactions in Turkey, the Middle East and South Asian countries in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. Before Cargill, Çetin spent almost five years at law firm Gur & Inal (now divided into to separate entities) between 1993 and 1998. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in law from Marmara University in 1992.
Çelebi Holding is another constituent of Turkey’s historically successful airline industry. As an airport services provider, it provides the support and logistics services that allow aircrafts to function, and has been immensely successful in this regard; it is a market leader in Turkey and is approaching this status in the huge market of India as well. Zeynep Candan Çetiner is chief legal counsel of the company and has an extremely impressive length of tenure with the company, having worked at Çelebi Holding since 2006. She has had a major role to play in the company’s impressive growth over this period, and working in the highly regulated and competitive air travel market makes this achievement even more impressive. Indeed, Çetiner has a track record of extreme commitment to her company’s cause; prior to working with Çelebi Holding she spent over 17 years with Vakıfbank. Here, she obtained a reputation of excellent legal support that ultimately led to the position of head of legal affairs.
Özgür Çolpan joined the German chemical and consumer goods giant Henkel in 2015 following a decade of experience at ABB. In his time at Henkel, Çolpan has refined the workload of the legal function by identifying “non-legal work” that can be moved out of the department and setting up a tracking system to measure the efficiency of its processes. ‘Today we are able to see how many contracts and other work is done by the legal department,’ Çolpan says. ‘The new system increased the service quality and decreased the external legal costs made by the company’. Leading legal affairs across Turkey and a number of regions, Çolpan is also recognised for his international transactional experience, featuring work a number of landmark projects such as the Kadıköy Kartal Metroline Project, the Marmaray Project, the Medcem Cement Plant and a project with Saudi Arabia Electricity Company. Çolpan has also overseen a number of significant litigations recently, including a case against the Turkish State Electricity Company for annulment of a public tender with the value of €10m. Çolpan’s previous in-house role at ABB saw him supporting the rapid growth of the company through his involvement in seven acquisitions and the establishment of three new factories. During this period Çolpan also conducted negotiations with unions and managed to avert a major strike. He states: ‘this experience further strengthened my ability to do contract negotiations with the customers, partners or stakeholders of huge projects’. He has held previous positions in Japan Tobacco International’s in-house legal department and in private practice.
Cem Davutoğlu left behind a hugely successful private practice career to join the in-house ranks of Akbank in March 2016. Prior to this, he spent over a decade with White & Case in Istanbul as a partner, owned and operated his own firm for six-and-a-half years after that and spent a further period as a partner with Bener Law Office of Istanbul after this. Davutoğlu explains what he took the role on to achieve, and how he has succeeded in this: ‘I have started the project finance and treasury transactions section in the legal department. Firstly, I set about hiring team members and developing internal procedures and policies for the section, as previously most of this work was done by outside legal counsel directly hired by the bank’s departments without involvement of the legal department. The current process is far better managed and supervised than it was previously handled’. Davutoğlu has achieved an awful lot in a relatively short space of time, and has worked hard to achieve a ‘direct working relationship with the senior management including executive board members’.
Çiğdem Dayan is one of the most experienced financial services lawyers in Turkey, boasting nearly three decades experience of working for leading organisations in the sector. After graduating with a law degree from Istanbul University in 1990, she joined private bank Yapı Kredi as a senior vice president. In 2006, she moved to Oyak Bank as an executive vice president and subsequently assumed control of ING’s legal function in Turkey, following its acquisition of Oyak Bank in 2007. Currently in charge of a formidable legal team in Istanbul, Dayan covers all litigation against the bank and sporadically deals with legal and compliance issues arising across the bank’s diverse range of activities. An expert in competition law, labour law and capital markets, Dayan works in close cooperation with senior management to lead strategic projects with long term implications on ING’s business.
Occupying a position on the executive management team of Turkey’s leading mobile phone operator, İ. Serhat Demir first joined Turkcell in the distinguished role of executive vice president of the legal and regulation function in May 2015. Demir was entrusted with this position in part due to his rich experience in the in-house legal sector at large Turkish companies; he worked as a lawyer and held executive and directorial positions responsible for legal affairs at Yıldız Holding and Çalık Holding. He was a member of the board of directors of Çalık Holding, Albtelecom, Banka Kombetare Tregtare and Aktif Yatırım Bankası. He is currently a board member of Turkcell’s subsidiaries namely Superonline, Global Bilgi and Global Tower. Demir graduated from the Faculty of Law at Istanbul University and has a Master’s of Business Administration degree. He started his professional career in 1997 at commercial data, analytics and business insights firm Dun & Bradstreet.
Having moved up through the ranks of Karadeniz Holding company in a variety of in-house legal positions, legal director Nazli Dereli Oba has been a fixture at the energy giant for several years. The remit of the legal director role at the global company whose main business line is in the energy sector is concerned with not only legal affairs – contracts, corporate, transactions, licencing agreements – but with ensuring top class management is dispensed to the myriad of in-house lawyers at the company. Oba started at Karadeniz Holding in 2012. After obtaining a background in law firms, Oba was a legal consultant at financial giant Citibank for one year before moving to the energy industry as the head of legal for Enerjisa Enerji Uretim in 2012.
Cemile Gunes Dinlenmis specialises in transport, commercial, competition and energy law with a particularly strong pedigree in claim management. She joined Erdemir Group in 2011 as group legal counsel manager and in 2013 was promoted to her current role as group legal director. With an advanced experience in litigation and structuring, drafting, negotiating and reviewing all transactional documents whilst preparing legal opinions, Dinlenmis is more than capable of handling legal matters for the company which is Turkey’s global iron and steel powerhouse. Her other specialities include a high level of knowledge in commercial and corporate law, M&As and labour law. Prior to her role at Erdemir, Dinlenmis served as legal counsel for Galata Wind Energy.
Since its founding in 1938 as state-owned bank funding the Turkish maritime sector, DenizBank has grown into one of the country’s largest financial services institutions. Having worked in senior legal positions in Turkish banks since 1998, DenizBank’s current executive vice president – chief legal counsel Ali Murat Dizdar combines his prominent position in Turkey’s legal in-house market with a formidable understanding of the country’s financial sector. Dizdar originally joined DenizBank in 2002 as legal corporate department head but was promoted within a year to the position of senior vice president of the entire legal function, a position he held for seven years until his current appointment in 2010. Over the course of his tenure Dizdar has worked on landmark projects such as the 2006 takeover by Dexia. More recently he has helped bring a number of new, innovative financial products to market and worked on an agreement with firstPay that will make online payments easier for customers. Dizdar obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law from Istanbul University in 1982 and 1984 respectively.
Established in 2000 as a joint-venture corporation of Alacer Gold and Lidya Madencilik, Anagold Madencilik is the operator of the world-class Çöpler Gold Mine located in east-central Turkey. In 2013, the company recruited the highly respected Ahmet İlker Doğan as vice president – general counsel. Doğan had a distinguished private practice career before this appointment, serving at international law firm White & Case in Ankara for almost 17 years. During his in-house career at Anagold Madencilik, Doğan has worked on a number of important company deals earning the trust and respect of the business. As one nominator says ‘Doğan’s seasoned professional judgment is an invaluable asset to his colleagues and clients alike. We have worked with Anagold Madencilik in numerous banking and finance matters over the years, and it is always a pleasure to work with him’.
Formerly with Metro Cash and Carry and head of legal for Sütaş Group, Burcu Sönmezyalçın Döker now takes on a highly varied set of responsibilities in her role as general counsel, compliance officer and data protection official for German-headquartered consumer electronics retailer Media Markt Turkey. She goes into how her prior career gave her the excellent base with which to tackle her current challenges: ‘Working for a global wholesale organisation has enabled me to understand how legal rules and requirements can be effectively applied to commercial relationships of various sizes, while working for and managing the legal team of a sector leader foodstuff producer allowed me to understand the intricacies of synchronising the legal aspects of a fast-paced distribution network with the requirements of corporate law’. She mentions that adapting to her current role has moulded her into a top-quality in-house counsel, allowing her to ‘effectively integrate my legal persona with the growing functionalities of a general counsel’. She has achieved a lot towards the development of the legal function at Media Markt during her time there. ‘Alongside bringing about a change in the role of the department to position it as a problem-solving point’ she explains, ‘I have also implemented an effective external counsel management system. This move has allowed the lawyers working as in-house counsel in the department to greatly change their work routines and devote their time to becoming trusted counsel to each company department or business unit’.
Iltem Dokurlar took on his role with Yildirim Holding in May 2016, prior to which he worked at the Borsa Istanbul as the general counsel. His time here coincided with the Turkish Stock Exchange transforming from the then İMKB into its current iteration of Borsa Istanbul, and Dokurlar had a significant part to play in this, as he elaborates: ‘This transformation – naturally – involved extensive legal work-streams, spanning from the corporate identity transformation to the vertical and horizontal integration of the Turkish stock exchange industry. I took the lead for in-house counselling of the Borsa Istanbul – Nasdaq deal which was unprecedented for both parties in terms of its nature and scope’. Dokurlar goes into how it is often challenges which are not anticipated that provide the biggest learning experience: ‘It is through unprecedented deals that you practice the art of thinking outside the box. At first, an unprecedented deal could look like trouble but there is huge space for creativity and good team work in such projects; these are the basic ingredients of leadership in to my experience’. Dokurlar also details the innovations he has made to Yildirim Holding’s legal function in terms of internal reporting: ‘One of the very first initiatives that I undertook was to unify and take under supervision of the legal department, the printed document flow to the shareholders, board members and C-suite. It is through our control over the document flow that we are now able to oversee first of all if the relevant matters are being properly submitted for opinion and secondly if the opinions are followed duly’. With demonstrable business acumen to compliment his legal nous, Dokurlar is perfectly placed to assist Yildirim pursue opportunities around the globe for growth on a continuous basis.
Tuna Yasin Doyuk currently heads legal affairs at Porland, a leading producer of porcelain based products that was founded in 1976 and exports to more than 30 countries globally. A key feature of his tenure at the company, which began in 2013, was managing and negotiating a collective labour agreement – a major success following the enactment of Turkey’s most recent minimum wage legislation. Since becoming Porland’s first in-house lawyer, Doyuk has built an interactive legal function of three lawyers who regularly engage with internal business units whilst developing a culture within the company that ensures a legal opinion is given on all significant developments affecting the organisation. Signifying the positive impression he has on senior figures in Porland’s management structure, Doyuk was recently appointed as legal advisor for Porland UK’s business. In addition to the sterling job he has done at Porland and further demonstrating his prominence in Turkey’s in-house community, Doyuk is a founding member of GC Turkey, a section of the Turkey Law Society which was established in March 2015 to meet the professional needs of in-house lawyers by promoting practice-sharing, networking and professional development.
At the helm of the legal function of the largest broadcasting group in Turkey, Neşe Kaya Durak provides legal support to several leading media companies and channels including KANAL D and CNN Türk. In charge of a team of 12 employees, Durak routinely handles all work related to the preparation of contracts, the examination, interpretation and provision of legislation and compliance across the holding’s portfolio of activities, and advices the board of directors on important commercial issues. Over the last 12 years at the holding, Durak has particularly impressed with her work on carrying out strategic M&A deals, as well as her involvement in overseeing a recent business restructuring process. Durak has also been a driving force behind the introduction of internal seminars for management to explain regulatory changes in the media industry. Prior to her role at Dogan TV Holdings, Durak was employed at Star TV, where she impressed with her handling of M&A related work. Durak is a graduate of the Law Faculty of Marmara Üniversitesi.
Established in 1946, Garanti Bank is an integrated financial services group and Turkey’s second largest private bank with consolidated assets of $95.7bn as of June 2017, approximately 14.5 million customers and more than 19,000 employees. The bank’s executive vice president for legal services, Aydın Düren, joined in February 2009 after a very successful 17 year private practice career. In addition to this role Düren is also the bank’s company secretary and a board member of Garanti Payment Systems, Teachers Academy Foundation, Garanti Mortgage and vice president of Garanti Bank Pension and Provident Fund Foundation. Known and well respected in Turkey’s in-house legal community, Düren is credited with having advanced skills in handling of banking law, corporate governance and M&A maters. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at Istanbul University in 1988.
Showing tremendous flexibility, Murat Durmaz has seamlessly transitioned into Turkey’s industrial sector after developing an outstanding in-house legal reputation in the country’s financial sector between 1999 and 2015. Upon joining Demirören Group, a major Turkish conglomerate that has grown rapidly in a number of fields over the last 60 years, Durmaz has continued to demonstrate the value of in-house legal support in a large corporation. In one of his first important tasks at Demirören, which he joined in 2015, Durmaz assisted the company on the €325m purchase of fuel distribution activities, supply and logistics assets from Total Oil Turkey. Previously, Durmaz enjoyed almost seven years as head of the legal department at Burgan Bank Türkiye and held senior legal positions at Finansbank and Türkiye İş Bankası. He graduated from the Ankaraq Law Faculty in 1997.
Elçin Erdeniz currently serves as the only legal counsel of Yandex Reklamcılık, a technology company that builds intelligence products and services powered by machine learning. Erdeniz has had the opportunity to be involved in many pioneering transactions across Turkey. Assuming his position as legal counsel in 2014 during a period of rapidly developing technology has been an invaluable experience for her. Erdeniz has also had to obtain a multicultural awareness during her tenure: ‘I believe that a legal counsel is capable of improving the operation from various aspects other than legal, and is able to produce various multi-dimensional scenarios which actually helps with creating new ideas. This skill can be used in other positions and projects’. Erdeniz has taken the initiative to be more active within the business, aiming to add new ideas beyond pure legal ones to the table. Her role positions her in the middle of disputes, and as the in-house counsel her role is not limited to the daily operations of the company, spanning political, social, financial and humanitarian situations: ‘We as legal counsels should be open to settle a dispute by peaceful means, be open to communication and spread this mind-set across our platforms in order to make our business life easier and more sustainable’, adds Erdeniz.
Tolga Erendaç joined Burgan Bank in May 2015 following its acquisition of Eurobank Tekfen and with a mandate to restructure the legal team in line with the bank’s changing vision and strategy. Erendaç constructed a ‘business-oriented’ team, which now comprises ten lawyers and four non-legal staff, and focuses on creating interactive relationships with internal clients. Erendaç comments: ‘we created web portals, one for letting top management track corporate governance documentation and the other one is created for answering daily queries raised by branches. All standard terms and conditions have been simplified, and written with a customer friendly language. The litigation processes have been also fastened by changing incorrect and ineffective practices, reducing overall cost’. Erendaç formerly worked as a senior legal counsel at HCBC and Citi, as well as local banks Bayindirbank, Etibank and Interbank. ‘Thinking through a business wise perspective, trying to capture the big picture when analysing matters and working closely with internal clients’, Erendaç says when referring to his approach. ‘I think these working methods make the problems easier to handle, and they have developed my communication and managerial skills’.
Chief legal counsel for Turkey’s third largest private bank and fourth largest bank overall, Hasan Esen is a passionate in-house lawyer, known in the region for his excellent work across the country within the financial sector. In this role he oversees all legal counsel to take charge of the bank’s project financing and treasury transactions, including the bank’s own financing matters and large loans in addition to non-law related law suits including criminal matters. In addition to these activities, Esen has been central to the bank’s recent transition period and also played an important role in its recent signing of a $1.2bn multicurrency and dual tranche syndicated loan facility in 2017 which will primarily be utilised for Akbank’s trade finance and general corporate purposes.
German automotive giant Mercedes-Benz operates in Turkey through its Mercedes-Benz Türk subsidiary, which provides a full range of services to customers including the sale of new and used cars, after sales service and financial services. Gamze Gökçen Pilevne is the chief legal counsel of Mercedes-Benz Türk, and is a highly recommended lawyer known for her all-round legal and business skills that are applied in a variety of contexts. In her own words, Pilevne explains her transition through the company: ‘After working several years in different law offices I started as an in-house counsel at Mercedes-Benz Türk in 2011. I had a chance to be involved with various projects in the legal and compliance department, having an essential role in the evolving phase of the function. I [was] appointed as legal manager in 2015, and afterwards was promoted and took over the office as corporate secretary, chief legal counsel and local compliance manager in August 2016’. Leading a team of five lawyers and an additional five non-legal staff allows Pilevne to sharpen her management skills, and lead initiatives including restructuring the distribution network, implementing an antitrust compliance culture and program in the company and carrying out intensive negotiations with authorities. Challenges within the industry pose threats to lawyers within the automotive sector, and Pilevne also contends with unique issues related to operating in Turkey. She states that, ‘regulatory changes have posed several new challenges to the company and I have been at the forefront of the risk management plan. However, political tension between two countries was the most challenging factor in the recent past. I acted as an ambassador between government officials and top management to improve the efficient cooperative dialogue’. Able to predict and weather these challenges, her reputation in the market is outstanding, and as a nominating source explains, Pilevne has ‘proven herself to be highly driven and efficient both as an individual and within a team, with a genuine understanding of their core business along with a unique sense of commercial awareness’.
Diversified Turkish business Çalık Holding has had the benefit of the wise counsel of Nilüfer Türkçü Hıra since November 2016, when she joined Lidya Madencilik, the mining subsidiary of Çalik Holding, bringing with her many years of experience at two of Turkey’s biggest law firms in Paksoy Law Firm, and the eleven years before that with the Birsel Law Firm. During her time in private practice she dispensed advice on the financing of projects in Turkey, secured loan transactions, M&As, restructurings within companies and corporate and commercial transactions in banking, insurance, energy, media and other sectors, all of which she describes as ‘very important’ to the Turkish economy. She states that her background ‘in the financing of acquisitions within the numerous sectors enabled me to make a valuable contribution to my in house career’, and she defines this as mainly focusing on standardisation of contacts in the legal department. She claims this ‘affected many departments within our company as well as the subsidiaries since many of them are obtaining legal advice from us. Furthermore, I focused on building up a strong legal team which assist the other departments in legal updates and trainings’. She is also recognised for her involvement on a huge amount of banking and finance, M&A, privatisations, transactions and litigations in recent years.
Berç Germeyan heads the legal department at Shell Turkey, the country’s leading, competitive and innovative integrated energy company, in addition to leading the ethics and compliance function. Germeyan started her professional life as a legal counsel in the legal department of PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Netherlands. She then joined Arthur Anderson which later merged with Ernst & Young. During her time with Arthur Anderson she primarily worked on providing legal advice for non-nationals planning to invest in Turkey and also worked to obtain her equivalence diploma in Turkey to ensure that she registered at the Turkish Bar Association and finalised her license. Culturally savvy and internationally experienced, Germeyan says that her ‘Dutch background has been a huge asset since the Dutch have been one of the top investors in Turkey’. With this international experience and having worked at Ernst & Young for seven years, she became the leading manager for M&A transactions. She was subsequently appointed as the head of legal department at Fortis Intertrust, where she set up the legal team and again worked primarily for non-nationals who were willing to set up a business in Turkey in various sectors. It was in 2009 that she joined Shell and has been working there ever since. In 2014 she was appointed as the legal director of Shell Turkey, who have downstream and upstream operations with 640 employees and five joint ventures. Germeyan’s knowledge in the joint venture field has been invaluable to Shell’s multiple operations. ‘My vast experience in this field has helped me mould and shape the corporate governance of our joint ventures. The re-shaping of the corporate governance structure enabled these joint ventures to operate more effectively going forward’, she says. A career highlight that Germeyan is particularly proud of came in 2003, when she was central to the pivotal Turkey EU spin-off treaty, making it possible to conduct partial spin-offs in Turkey which enabled companies to sell a part of the business rather than having to conduct an asset sale transaction. She was involved in the advising of this directive to be implemented in Turkey, and says, ‘this moulded me as a legal professional since it made it possible for me to assist in something that was already applied in the EU and adapt it to Turkey. This implementation also helped legal entities in Turkey that otherwise would have been liquidated’.
Currently the seventh largest bank in Turkey in terms of asset size, VakıfBank plays a pioneering role in the financing of domestic and foreign trade in investment banking and capital market operations in addition to its core banking products and services. Mehmet Emin Karaağaç joined the company in 2012 after a rewarding and successful 23 years at Türkiye İş Bankası where he served as legal counsel and legal consultant in various units and acquired an almost unrivalled understanding of Turkish banking law. Since joining VakıfBank, Karaağaç has led his legal team on numerous financial agreements such as the issuance of international bonds and securing syndication loans including the largest syndication loan agreement of VakıfBank’s history in 2015. Karaağaç is a graduate from Istanbul University Faculty of Law.
Experienced head of legal and compliance, Necati Karabayir has a demonstrated history within the renewables, energy and durable goods industry. Skilled in negotiation, international law, legal compliance, arbitration and competition law, Karabayir encompasses a great level of strong business experience whilst being able to handle all critical deals and transactions. He joined Vaillant Group, a supplier of hot water, room heating and cooling solutions to countries all over the world, in 2013 assuming his current position as head of legal and compliance and country general counsel upon joining. Prior to this role Karabayir worked as senior legal counsel for Siemens, a role he held and developed in for six years. He previously also had a brief spell in private practice at Güner Law Office before moving in-house.
Having worked at cement company Çimentaş Group since 1998, Kayhan Karabayır has an almost unrivalled understanding of his company’s vast operations. Established in 1950 as the first cement factory in the Aegean Region, Çimentaş is today one of the most prominent cement companies in Turkey and is strategically located in the country’s largest and emerging domestic markets. Over the course of his 19-year association with the company, Karabayır has been involved on a number of its landmark developments. Some of the larger deals he has worked on include the purchase of a 98% stake in the company by major Italian cement producer Cementir Holding in 2001, the acquisition of assets located in the Thrace region by Çimentaş in 2005 and the acquisition of Elazığ Çimento in 2006 which gave the company access to the Southeast Anatolian market. Operating in a highly regulated market, Karabayır is credited by nominators for helping Çimentaş Group navigate local domestic laws and maintain its high annual production capacity.
As the general counsel for 3M Türkiye, Halil Kardıçalı serves as the director of the Turkish legal department and member of the management operating committee. In light of a number of changes and restructuring plans by the business, with the human resources manager of the subsidiary being transferred, Kardıçalı takes on the HR manager role in addition to his responsibilities as general counsel: ‘This appointment pushed my boundaries as I had to show leadership in a capacity that I did not necessarily know the craft of’. This role has enabled him to develop his negotiation skills and played a crucial role to convince the business as to his ‘visions and solutions’ regarding creating critical change and improvements throughout the business. Kardıçalı highlights one of his achievements as his role in implementing a robust competition compliance system with a series of ‘to-the-point’ trainings, dawn raid exercises and easy to follow guidelines which created a safe environment in the company and mitigated many risks: ‘Convincing the operating committee to put the time and effort into the program and executing it with a good outcome was a major success especially when the budgets were very tight’. Another proud moment in his career was his first move into the operating committee as the youngest member of a very experienced and long-standing team. Relying on his expertise in law to guide, co-operate and challenge the veterans on the board certainly moulded him as a professional: ‘It took some time to build trust and to earn my stripes but it was a great learning period which allowed me to combine my expertise with my people skills to carve my place among the veterans’, says Kardıçalı.
Having been mentioned in the GC Powerlist: Turkey Teams in 2016 as part of the recommended GAMA Power Systems legal department, managing legal counsel of the company Bora Kaya has amassed an impressive individual record across a variety of in-house legal roles. Kaya’s career has seen him spend a number of years within in-house legal teams in Turkish companies within the industrials sector including a six year spell at Eregli Iron and Steel Works, where he was mainly concerned with corporate governance, regulatory affairs and other projects. He then moved to Rönesans Holding where he proved his outstanding managerial skills by leading a team of 13 lawyers and four paralegals, and was able to prove his worth on a number of cross-border deals in Turkey, Russia, Europe, Nigeria and Northern Iraq, allowing the company to expand its worldwide footprint. Furthermore, he assisted the team in an arbitration regarding a project in Jordan and led the team in a DAB process regarding a project in Latvia. As well as the construction of three large power plants in Bahrain, Russia and Tunisia. He explains of these challenges: ‘We often encounter political and regulatory challenges in countries where we are active. As a preventive measure we are trying to draft our contracts in the best possible way that would protect us in such a scenario. If we cannot succeed in drafting at a level we aim to achieve or another unexpected event happens, we closely collaborate with local law firms and financial consultants in order to better understand what might be our legal or administrative options to reverse or prevent the negative effects’.
Founded in 1959, Ford Otosan has been one of the top three exporting companies in Turkey since 2005 and is the largest commercial vehicle production centre in Ford Europe, thanks to its production capacity of 415,000 commercial vehicles, 80,000 engines and 140,000 transmissions. As chief legal since 2007, Ahmet Serdar Kayhan has led the company on a number of landmark initiatives and projects. His most recent achievements include helping the company secure a number of loan agreements, such as a €150m loan funded by ERBD in early 2017 for financing upcoming investment projects, and the opening of a Ford Trucks’ 4S facility in Hatay in October of the same year. A graduate of Ankara University in 1995, Kayhan also highlights completing a Post Graduate Seminar Program on Advanced Legal Studies (Criminal Justice) attained from the University of London as an accomplishment that has benefitted his legal career.
Özen Keskin started his career at the Turkish business of Generali in 2010, where he has worked for most of his career, except for a short break in 2014/ 15, when she worked briefly at global pharmaceutical company Bayer and energy company Trakya Elektrik. Her two terms at the company are characterised by dramatic improvements to the legal function. ‘Before I stepped in, the company’s legal department and corporate affairs were not structured’, she claims. ‘I led the initiative to restructure legal and corporate affairs which resulted in a more efficiently functioning legal department. This significantly decreased the response times and as a result the team now knows which lawyer to contact without being subject to too much bureaucracy’. In the period immediately following her joining the company, Keskin led all of the legal work related to the transformation of the company into an online and direct sales company- a ground breaking move in the Turkish insurance industry. ‘I designed the whole legal infrastructure of the new sales channels’, she clarifies. During the same period, while working with an IT services provider, Keskin also designed the new IT system to be used by the legal department. During her second term at the company (2015-2017) Keskin led a restructuring project, whereby Keskin adapted the company’s internal system to then-introduced e-commerce and data protection laws. ‘Simultaneously with this, the insurance sector went through a cartel investigation by the Competition Authority in 2016 and 2017’, Keskin adds. ‘I supervised our defence with a law firm that is expert for cartel investigation. We were successful in our defence’.
Serçin Kireçtepe is a lawyer with an enviable record of achievement in in-house roles. Previously an internal lawyer for pharmaceutical company Eczacıbaşı İlaç Pazarlama, she also spent six-and-a-half years at Henkel Turkey with a dual role as a legal counsel and compliance officer. Now head of legal and the most senior lawyer in Turkey for international retail wholesale giant Metro, Kireçtepe brings her own philosophy of ‘honesty, integrity and simplicity’ to the role. She mentions that she has had a significant impact on the legal function since joining in June 2013: ‘I have entirely set up a new structure that is tailor-made for the current needs of the wholesale sector’, she explains. Like so many of her colleagues, Kireçtepe mentions ‘constant regulatory changes’ as the most salient challenge that has affected her consistently. To deal with this, she prizes a collaborative approach with excellent communication with senior management, and counts on a direct report to the company’s CEO to assist with this.
Since joining Mondelēz International Turkey in 2011, Özge Gülşen-Kösem has adapted the legal function’s approach to new technology and has demonstrated innovative thinking to find ways to bring a standardised approach to stakeholders and Mondelēz group companies. ‘One significant project that we brought to the company was a contract management system’, she says. ‘This brought a real efficiency and relief in the organisation’. More recently Gülşen-Kösem contributed to the execution of two new policies on contract drafting, implementing global procedures and guidelines in the local environment with the support of the regional and local legal teams. ‘In accordance to these, we are reviewing all the contract templates we have been using so far and adapting them to our new company structure’, she adds. ‘As a result of this huge work, legal will be involved in the contract process as an assurance function and Mondelēz will be using all the same contract content and systems in all and each entity in the world’. Besides these organisational improvements, Gülşen-Kösem is known for his impeccable transactional track record. Recently, for instance, she supported the merge between Mondelēz International and D.E Master Blenders to combine their respective coffee businesses, creating the world’s leading pure-play coffee company with annual revenues of more than €5bn. Gülşen-Kösem served as a legal lead of the project in Turkey supporting the sale of the business in the country, negotiating on an agreement and ensuring a competition clearance. Other significant project for Gülşen-Kösem include her work to facilitate the launch of OREO and Barni biscuits in Turkey and her involvement in the sale of a company building Gebze. Her previous career features positions at Turk Telekom and the Ankara Patent Bureau.
Zeynep Derman Küçükönder joined the Turkish business of Coca-Cola in 2005, initially as a country legal counsel and then as legal director for Turkey, Caucasus and Central Asia business unit. During this period she has maintained a vision that legal should be a business partner that produces high quality, timely legal advice, focusing on efficiency and productivity initiatives. ‘The team has designed and implemented an online review and approval process for contracts, which has increased efficiency and reduced risk throughout the business’, Küçükönder says. More broadly, she says, the team has ‘embraced technology to stimulate change through the creation of a Government Dealings Approval Tool’, which helps the team and the wider company to ensure the reporting is on time, accurate and compliant with local laws and internal policies. As Coca-Cola traditionally has a strong focus on marketing, Küçükönder’s team is heavily involved with promotions, jointly arranged with the company bottlers. To manage its process more effectively, the team has created a process flow chart which is quite adoptable for each promotion. This new implementation has brought much needed clarity to the team, with all each employee now able to easily understand ‘what to do, when to do it and how to do it’. ‘It brings a lot of practicality and things become more systematic even for the most complex promotions’, Küçükönder says. Prior to her tenure at Coca-Cola, Küçükönder set up and managed the legal function at the internet service provider Superonline, where she was one of the key people to draw a new legislation framework, partnering with security services and the government, and giving speeches at all levels. She started her career in 1998 as an assistant legal counsel at HP.
After graduating from law school, Kerem Moralı pursued an academic career at Galatasaray University between 1995 and 1998, enabling him to set the foundation and acquire invaluable skills he would put to good use later. After completing his military service, he worked at Finansbank for three years, and in 2002 started working at Somay Law Office as a senior associate. In 2005 he returned to Fiba Group and has been working there ever since. He states one of the highlights of his career to be having started as an in-house lawyer at Finansbank which was at that time still owned by the Fiba Group. During the period he worked for Finansbank as a young in-house lawyer, Moralı had the chance to meet and work with renowned Turkish businessman and owner of Fiba Group, Hüsnü Özyeğin, who broadened his professional outlook with his business acumen and entrepreneurship, as Moralı explains: ‘He [Özyeğin], later invested his trust in my potential to hire me as the chief legal counsel to Fiba Group which was another stepping stone in my career’. Soon after he undertook the role, Özyeğin sold Finansbank which generated a significant amount of capital for Fiba Group to invest in various sectors and become a key conglomerate in the Turkish economy. ‘This, in turn, gave me an opportunity to develop my professional skills and a challenge, of making every day unique’, says Moralı. After the Finansbank sale he was not just the chief legal counsel, but the sole legal in-house counsel, due to the fact that Fiba was investing in various sectors and rapidly growing. This meant that Moralı had the responsibility of building the right team and creating a legal department – a task he excelled at. Thanks to Moralı, today the company has a very strong in-house legal team which is involved in M&As and project finance initiatives regularly. One of the most notable transactions he has been involved in during the last three years was the sale of a 65% stake in Kumport, one of the leading ports in Turkey.
A firm believer in collaboration and partnership when managing in-house legal teams, Emel Nakay has had transformative impact on both Turkcell and Accenture Turkey in her in-house legal career. ‘In each role I first analysed whether we are following the right approach in positioning legal department in the company,’ she explains. ‘As building strong relationships with non-legal teams brings the trust and team spirit accordingly I always encouraged my teams to collaborate more, position legal department not as a show-stopper function but instead as a protective business partner’. Utilising this method over the last seven years at Accenture, Nakay has successfully forged a highly competent legal function, which seamlessly handles transactions related to information technology, strategy, digital, technology consulting and outsourcing. Over the last three years, Nakay stood out for her work on two complex multinational cases. Nakay successfully helped tackle multiple significant regulatory changes during the negotiations, which required swift analysis and response. ‘After closing both deals successfully, we extracted and analysed important lessons, to leverage the learned experience to new coming challenges in future’. Nakay previously served at Turkcell, the leading mobile operator in Turkey, initially as a senior legal counsel and then as legal head. Highlights from the latter role include provision of legal support to the company’s 3G tender in Turkey with a deal value of $500m and an international M&A projects with deal values ranged between $10m and $150m. Nakay started her professional career at Arthur Andersen’s legal department in 2001.
Global credit card company Mastercard recently completed an important milestone in Turkey; it teamed up with mobile retail upstart Getir to provide the Masterpass digital payment service technology and facilitate Mastercard’s payment experience for Getir’s artificial intelligence system for Facebook Messenger. Supporting the legalities pertaining to this innovative deal was vice president legal of Mastercard in Turkey, Esma Gül Nalbantoğlu Kocaman, who in addition to the Getir deal has overseen the entire legal remit for the Turkish area of the global Mastercard business. Kocaman joined Mastercard in 2014 after two spells at Turkish law firms including Yarsuvat & Yarsuvat and Kolcuoglu Demirkan Attorneys at Law.
Part of Garanti Bank, Turkey’s second largest private bank, Garanti Emeklilik has become a domestic market leader in the provision of pensions and insurance in a short space of time. Head of the legal department at Garanti Emeklilik currently is Ayça Ögel, a tri-lingual lawyer known in the industry for expert skills in banking law, project finance, corporate law, commercial litigation and competition law to name a few. Before taking on her current role in October 2016, Ögel spent nine and half years as legal counsel in Garanti Bank’s Project and Acquisition Finance and Sustainability Department. Excelling in the role, she gained the attention of senior management for her ability in tailoring her legal knowledge with business acumen which ultimately led to her promotion. Ögel began developing her understanding of Turkey’s financial sector whilst working in the legal department of another prominent Turkish bank, Türkiye İş Bankası, between 2001 and 2006. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in law from Galatasaray University and her Master’s degree from Istanbul Bilgi University. She also has an Executive MBA from Bahçeşehir University.
Established in 1953 with the aim of supporting rural development and the sugar industry, today Şekerbank provides a plethora of services to businesses across agricultural, commercial and SME, corporate and retail banking. Istanbul-based Dr Sefer Oguz oversees a flexible legal team that provides support to the full scope of the bank’s activities across its network of 302 branches, spread around 71 Turkish cities and 101 off-centre district. With nearly 66% of the bank’s branches located outside of Turkey’s three largest cities, Oguz has supported Şekerbank‘s “community banking” mission, which has seen it bring financial services to segments that had not previously had access to banking. A lawyer with distinct managerial talent, over the last 13 years at the bank Oguz has established a well-organised legal department capable of routinely supporting projects across the its wide geographical span. Prior to joining Şekerbank in 2004 Oguz served as a chief prosecutor for nearly a decade.
Burak Ismail Okay leads the legal team of Zorlu Holding, one of Turkey’s largest corporate groups that employs over 26,000 employees across a portfolio of over 60 companies operating in a range of sectors, from textiles to electrical goods. He joined Zorlu in 2006 and played an active role in the structuring of the legal department which centrally serves all of the Zorlu Group, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Okay has worked closely with the business for a number of years and has been a board member at group entity Zorlu Enerji since 2007. His understanding of risk mitigation and commercial drivers across the group has fed into the legal team’s approach to handling negotiations and delivering strategic advice. Okay started his career as a lawyer in the department of legal advisory at İşbank. He later worked at Garanti Bankası as an assistant legal advisor, at MNG Bank as a legal advisor and at Nortel Networks Netaş as the legal affairs director before joining Bener Law Office as an executive.
Şebnem Önder holds overall responsibility for the world’s most international tobacco group, British American Tobacco (BAT), in Turkey and North Africa Area with respect to legal and security functions. As a member of BAT’s North Africa Area management team, Önder contributes to the development and realisation of integrated business strategies to achieve the business’ objectives and ultimately its vision for the company. She also provides direction, leadership and talent development, guiding the in-house team to navigate corporate and regulatory governance to mitigate risk for the business and maximise competitive advantage. She has gained attention for her approach to all tasks with one nominator saying: ‘Önder is an intelligent, solution-oriented colleague. We have worked together for several years, and her exceptional strategic and practical mind-set will prove invaluable in her new position as the head of BAT North Africa’. Önder also plans and shapes the legal function’s strategy and policies to meet the needs of the business whilst simultaneously meeting the requirements of the central functions and global functional initiatives. The international scope of her role sees her ensuring compliance with a special focus on sanctions against certain countries, representing international companies on their entry into the Turkish market and advising them on strategic matters. Having been in this intense role since 2014, Önder has developed extensive experience in privatisation and joint ventures, particularly in cross-border transactions for multinational and Turkish clients, successfully completing many banking and capital markets transactions in the process. Prior to her time at BAT, Önder had a twenty year career at international law firm White & Case, where she led a wide range of corporate and financial transactions in numerous cross border M&As, advancing her legal skills which she effortlessly now utilises at BAT.
A subsidiary of Yıldız Holding, Pladis was established in early 2016 to bring together the confectionary and biscuit companies of Yıldız together under one roof. Leading brands Ülker, McVitie’s and Godiva are handled by Pladis, and account for over $5bn in revenues per year. Barış Öner is chief legal officer of this powerful enterprise, and brings with him an excellent legal pedigree gained around Yıldız Holding companies and elsewhere. In addition to this, Öner supplements his legal expertise and advice with a close working relationship with the very uppermost management of the company. He provides a legal perspective to strategic commercial matters that has a real impact as to how the company proceeds in achieving its objectives; his immense experience in the field and enviable legal knowledge mean he is the ideal person to do so.
Coca-Cola İçecek is the global soft drink brand’s subsidiary in Turkey and has responsibility for the production, distribution and sale of sparkling and still beverages on behalf of The Coca-Cola Company in the country. General counsel and company secretary of Coca-Cola İçecek is Ertuğrul Onur, who has been with the company for over ten years and from his base in Istanbul provides legal advice for all aspects of its operations. Onur has developed a reputation in the Turkish in-house legal market through a variety of roles at notable global companies including Mobil Oil, BP and Pfizer, providing counsel to assist with the respective company’s plans in Turkey and the region. Onur’s advice in his current role regarding Coca-Cola’s Turkey operation is of a diverse and comprehensive nature, and enables the company to serve a customer base of 80 million people with ten plants and more than 2,500 employees across Turkey. Onur was highlighted by a private practice source as having ‘sound judgment and reasoning along with excellent project management abilities (including management of resources, time, budgets and scope), [and] he is never intimidated by the challenges or complex tasks at hand’.
A lawyer with over 15 years’ experience in reputable national and multinational companies, Özgür Ozan Döker brings a large amount of multidimensional experience to Sofra Grup, a leading Turkish food and support services provider. Prior to his current role, Döker served as an in-house lawyer for Total Oil Turkiye over a period of four years, cultivating his knowledge in petroleum and LPG market law, as well as contract management and compliance. Döker started his career with his own law firm, Döker & Ilgin law office, with a partner, and worked there for three and a half years. This gave him valuable litigation and practice experience which he is still using in his daily business. After that, his in-house career at multinational company ILCE Taşımacılık began, and now after 15 years in-house he is still on what he describes as an ‘exciting journey’ as a general counsel. After almost six years since joining Sofra Grup, he has had the chance to create and manage the legal department within the organisation. With the help of his two in-house counsel and two outsourced law firms, Döker has dealt with a large workload highly effectively, including over three thousand projects around Turkey and more than two thousand client and supplier contracts of approximately $600m. Being given the opportunity to sculpt the department enabled him to set the foundation for a strong and trusted function, something he initiated by, ‘choosing in-house lawyers to work with, by setting up the job description of the lawyers and the department itself but I shall admit when this is a new experience for the business to have to work with a legal department, there was a resistance, but now they give credit to the importance of having an in-house legal team’. Döker strongly believes in the advantages of sharing knowledge with the business, adding: ‘That’s why I personally delivered several training sessions all around Turkey to a wide variety of individuals, including regional directors and executive board members’. Döker positions himself as a multi-competent business partner and aims to facilitate the company’s overall strategy with an acceptable level of legal risk.
US food and beverage conglomerate PepsiCo has had a presence in Turkey since 1962. In March 2002, Pepsi Bottling Group bought the Pepsi bottling operation in Turkey, merging the Fruko brand and Pepsi Cola International office in Turkey under one roof. The following month, the company recruited Kagan Oztarakci as legal director and government affairs director for PepsiCo Beverages in Turkey. Having demonstrated business-focused and industry-leading legal skills in that role, Oztarakci was promoted in 2011 to legal director for PepsiCo Turkey – the position he occupies today. Shortly after the promotion, he worked on PepsiCo Turkey’s launch of new mobile phone technology for vending machines. More recently he was involved in the establishment of the company’s sixth Turkish factory, which provides over a 25 per cent share in PepsiCo’s total production volume in the country and further enhanced his in-house legal credentials among colleagues. Before his 15 year association with PepsiCo began, Oztarakci had worked at private practice firms for nine years.
At Türk Telekom, Yakup Öztunç was appointed as assistant general manager of law for the company in January 2017. Founded in 1839, Türk Telekom is an established institution in Turkey that today offers a complete range of mobile, fixed voice, broadband and TV services. Having been there since 1998, Öztunç assisted the company in the recent restructure of its consumer, corporate and wholesale business units, leading it to be the first integrated telecommunications company in Turkey. Following the adoption of an integrated structure, Öztunç has also helped the legal team with unifying three of the Group’s companies, which collectively had 38 million subscribers, under the single umbrella of Türk Telekom. Starting his career as a freelance lawyer in 1997 he has been working as a lawyer, legal counsel and legal director in various business fields in Türk Telekom since 1998. Over the years he has moulded himself into a talented lawyer, knowledgeable in applicable legislations as well as developing knowledge of the legal frameworks of other relevant industries, like energy, payment systems and electronic money. Öztunç has since coordinated the process of making the suspicious claims tracking system compatible with the developing technology and changing legislation. Since 2003, he has given legal advice at project negotiations as a lawyer and as an employee representative. With almost 20 years of experience at the leading Turkish telecommunications company, Öztunç’s advanced understanding of Türk Telekom’s business means he is more than well-placed to adequately give legal steer on the corporation’s diverse operations.
Moving into the in-house legal ranks with energy holding company Akkok Holding in mid-2013, Senem Berkem Paflak impressed thoroughly, and soon progressed into the role of head of legal and compliance at Borusan EnBW Energy, an energy company that produces all of its power through renewable means. Now head of legal and compliance, Paflak goes through the main highlights that she can look back on in her career so far. ‘The top three highlights’, she says, ‘have been the reduction of all the company’s court cases with “accommodationist” legal actions, winning notable Turkish electricity tenders and finalising the lots of various solar and wind M&A projects. As an in-house counsel, I have worked different aspects of various projects: M&A, litigation in both commercial and administrative courts, tenders, different commercial and corporate issues to name a few’. Having developed the legal function at the company, to the point where other business units see her ‘as a close as a phone call’ in terms of communication. She lists off a number of projects that she is particularly pleased with having completed for her company: ‘The most important projects I have been involved with were the finalisation of the Kartaldağı wind power plant M&A project, finalisation of the M&A project with Aksa Enerji agreeing to sell Kıyıkoy Wind Power Plant and winning four administrative court cases in the İzmir area’.
Founded in 1964, Yörsan is Turkey’s leading diary company supplying high quality food products to over 20 countries around the world. Buse Pinar Kaçar joined the company as Chief legal and corporate affairs officer in 2014, shortly after the Abraaj Group acquired a majority stake in Yörsan Group. Upon joining the company, Kaçar immediately began working on a re-structuring project involving the merger of four companies and created the legal department from scratch. Other features of her time in the role include assisting the company on complicated and successful capital increase and decrease processes, establishing the company’s first comprehensive compliance and ethics program and leading negotiations on a three year union agreement. Having achieved these activities in just over three years, it is easy to see why Kaçar was highlighted by nominators as an excellent in-house lawyer. Before Yörsan, Kaçar enjoyed senior legal positions at Ströer Kentvizyon, NN Hayat Emeklilik, GlaxoSmithKline in UK and Carrefour. Her first in-house legal role was at the international apparel and accessories brand Mavi Jeans between 2007 and 2008.
Eda Okay Riehl was nominated during this year’s research for her outstanding support with regards to many legal issues, and she can also point to an accomplished career background that further boosts her credentials. She spent five years at Turkish law firm Mehmet Gün & Partners within its corporate and dispute resolutions departments dealing with complex projects. Her first in-house role was as legal counsel at Media-Saturn Turkey. There, just after two years she was appointed to head of legal affairs and compliance officer, then to general counsel. Afterwards, she held the position of regional compliance director for T-MEA-CIS region at B/S/H/ Turkey. Now responsible for compliance in META region (GCC, Turkey, and Africa) at IT product distributor Ingram Micro and part of its management team, Okay Riehl has established herself well, and has a huge amount of past career experiences to inform her current approach. Among other regulatory compliance topics, trade compliance and export controls is also in the focus of her current assignment. She goes into some of her past successes: ‘At BSH Turkey, I managed the regional compliance department, was responsible for a heterogeneous region called T-MEA-CIS covering many different jurisdictions, focused on regulatory compliance. This provided me the opportunity to improve my intercultural management skills. At Media Markt, I established the legal affairs department from scratch based on a pro-active approach and set up legal processes within the entire company assisting the rapidly growing business. I also successfully handled all investigations and lawsuits initiated by authorities and third parties after the market entry of Media Markt thanks to the profound expertise that I gained at Mehmet Gün & Partners’. These and other triumphs during Okay Riehl’s career mark her out as an excellent in-house counsel, and someone who looks set to achieve even more in the years to come.
Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, is Turkey’s largest private bank, owned under a joint venture structure by Koç Holding and UniCredit, both Fortune Global 500 companies. Having held the position of assistant general manager in charge of legal affairs since 2008, Cemal Aybars Sanal occupies a prominent legal position in Turkey’s financial sector. Demonstrating his knowledge and application of banking law, over the years Sanal has impressed with his work on a number of multibillion dollar syndicated loans. A notable example is Sanal’s 2017 involvement on a $1.36bn syndicated loan agreed with the participation of 37 banks from 17 countries. Another significant project Sanal has on worked during his tenure at Yapı Kredi was the sale of its insurance business to German insurance company Allianz in 2013. Before taking his current role Sanal worked at ELIG Law Firm as a senior consultant for one year. Prior to that he was chief legal counsel and vice president at Boyner Holding for seven years. He also enjoyed a seven-year spell at Shell Turkey from 1992 onwards, leaving in 1999 as chief legal counsel and a member of the board of directors.
Previously a private practice lawyer with Topaloğlu and an in-house counsel for Garanti Bankası, Özge Sanioğlu moved to Deutsche Bank in 2012, and received a quick promotion to vice president and legal counsel within a year; this achievement is emblematic of the level of performance she has accomplished throughout her time at Deutsche Bank. Sanioğlu explains that she has ‘considerable experience in banking and finance law, capital markets law and corporate law’ to go along with valuable experience in litigation matters. Alongside this, she mentions her flexibility and reliability, along with her ability to ‘work on [her] own initiative and take responsibility’ as the factors that have led to her being able to ‘look at matters from different perspectives and easily understand issues in order to find suitable and risk free solutions’; these are all key factors in her success. Sanioğlu explains that she has ‘implemented various regulatory changes in the bank’, and in particular has put huge efforts into ‘updating the contract templates and internal procedures of the Bank’, to ensure that it is ‘completely compliant with the applicable legislation in Turkey’. While she concedes that ‘regulatory changes have been a big challenge in Turkey’, Sanioğlu believes that ‘understanding the underlying causes of those changes and knowing in-depth the procedures and operation of the Bank’ provide the ‘key solutions to overcome those challenges’.
Since returning to the in-house legal profession in 2011, Oğuz Sami Sarıkaya has established himself as a premier counsel in the energy sector, culminating in his 2016 appointment by LUKOIL Eurasia Petrol as head of legal. The company plays an important role as a regional centre for its parent LUKOIL, one of Russia’s largest oil companies, linking energy suppliers to the growing markets of Europe and Asia. Before Sarıkaya’s appointment to his current role he impressed at his previous employers, OMV Petrol Ofisi, between 2011 and 2016. As senior legal counsel for his last two years there, Sarıkaya gained internal recognition for his handling and advising on the oil company’s litigations and dispute resolutions. Sarıkaya is a graduate of both Marmara University and Özyeğin Üniversitesi.
Experienced chief legal officer Oya Sehirlioğlu has a demonstrable history of working in the fast-moving consumer goods and the mining and metals industries; before her current role she spent over seven years as chief legal counsel for Kraft Foods (now part of Mondelēz International) in Turkey. Excelling in that role she gained wide industry acclaim both within the global organisation of the parent company and Turkey’s in-house legal community. In 2015, Sehirlioğlu joined Erdemir, Turkey’s global iron and steel powerhouse, and helps to maintain this stand-out reputation and status in the industry by providing expert business-focused legal counsel. According to nominating sources, possessing strong legal professional skills in retail, contract, competition, M&A law and compliance has made Sehirlioğlu ideal for this job, driving it forward and managing the legal needs of its 13,000 employee-strong company.
SOCAR (The State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic), is one of the leading oil companies in the region. Its Turkish operation began in 2008 and having pumped almost $20bn of investment into it since then, SOCAR Türkiye is aiming to become Turkey’s largest power producer. Assisting the company in achieving its goals by ensuring it operates in a legally-sound manner is the decorated in-house lawyer Elif Şen, who became SOCAR Türkiye’s chief legal officer in October 2016. Şen is both highly regarded and respected in Turkey’s in-house legal circles, having held a number of senior positions in the country’s most successful companies. Before SOCAR Türkiye, she was chief legal counsel at Odeabank, a prominent domestic financial services company. Between 2002 and 2014, Şen worked at Sabancı Holding, Turkey’s leading industrial and financial conglomerate, holding the chief legal counsel position from 2011 onwards. With a professional legal career that dates back to 1994, Şen has built a reputation of being a specialist in joint ventures, corporate governance and intellectual property in particular, skills which she can draw in her current role when facilitating SOCAR Türkiye’s growth plans.
Aygaz is Turkey’s seventh largest industrial organisation according to the listing by Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and it is owned by the Koç Group. Providing legal support as head of legal at the company since 2010, Burcu Şener Sözer heads the Aygaz legal department and in doing so has a particular focus on affairs relating to litigation and legislation pertaining to liquid petroleum gas and natural gas. Admired for her ability in dealing with these issues in a thorough but timely fashion, Şener Sözer has won plaudits from peers as a specialist and gained a large amount of experience in these and other general legal matters. Şener Sözer also enjoyed a succesful private practice career, spent for the most part at Istanbul-based law firm Taboglu & Demirhan. Şener Sözer is a graduate of Ankara University and completed an LLM in corporate law at The George Washington University Law School in the US.
With annual sales of approximately 15,000 vehicles a year, Borusan Otomotiv is a major automotive group that counts a highly reputable portfolio of brands under its umbrella; BMW, MINI, Land Rover and Jaguar vehicles are all sold through Borusan. Şelale Serengil is chief legal counsel of the company, having joined in late 2011, but had built up an enviable in-house legal record prior to this. She spent nine years with IT company Meteksan Sistem, ending up as chief legal officer, and was also a legal consultant at ProgeLighting for two-and-a-half years. In addition to these professional milestones, Serengil takes academic achievement seriously. In addition to an LLM in commercial law, she is in the process of Ph.D. studies in law at the University of Istanbul.
With over a decade’s tenure with international pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s Turkish operation, Işık Soydan is an in-house legal expert in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. However, she has previously proven her mettle in other industries, with a highly creditable in-house career in the food and beverage industry with such names as McDonald’s, Kraft Foods and Efes Beer Group. Soydan promotes a highly collaborative approach within her team and looks to empower them to make decisions while also remaining highly approachable herself. This, combined with her technical skills and conscientiousness in regards to her workload mark her out as a highly respected and well-known in-house lawyer. Among other major projects, Soydan has overseen the legal support of efforts to localise the production of the company’s Prevnar vaccine, a highly complex operation given the regulated nature of the industry.
Murat Sümer is the head legal counsel of Otoyol Yatırım ve İşletme, the project company of the multibillion dollar Gebze İzmir Motorway project. In this capacity Sümer manages the in-house legal team which comprises of three lawyers whose responsibilities involve all aspects of corporate governance, contract negotiation and the implementation of a state-of-the-art debt collection system. Sümer has been integral in many aspects relating to the successful implementation of construction and operational strategy for the motorway. Due to the project’s place as first implementer of the “Build-Operate-Transfer” (BOT) framework for a motorway in Turkey, the required solutions for legal strategy and day-to-day execution of the project has required a creative mind-set; something that has been successfully fulfilled by Sümer. Under his proficient management the in-house legal team was instrumental in successfully closing a recent $5bn project finance agreement. To date, the mnotorway project has entered into hundreds of contracts ranging from mid-sized operational contracts to multibillion dollar construction contracts all negotiated and executed by Sümer and his in-house legal team. For his role in seamlessly overseeing these deals in such a high-profile project, Sümer has gained much recognition by both internal colleagues and external peers.
Ruken Taşkıran has shaped the legal division of Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, one of the first nationwide commercial banks in Turkey, for the last eight years as its legal manager of the international law department. As part of a department of 118 lawyers and 56 non-lawyers reporting to Cemal Aybars Sanal, the bank’s deputy CEO for legal affairs, Taşkıran plays a major role to the international direction of the legal department, serving as a key point of reference for the global project strategies. Prior to her current role Taşkıran held two private practice positions, giving her time to accumulate experience in a number of sectors. She previously had had a spell in private practice as a lawyer for law firm CTK, a position she held for two years. Prior to this she served a one year tenure as a lawyer for law firm D&D.
Mehmet Tekergül is the most senior lawyer at the Volkswagen Doğuş Finansman (vdf) Group Companies, which include a number of business areas including Finance, vdf Insurance, vdf Factoring, vdf Operational Leasing/Fleet and vdf Service. Tekergül can boast a number of initiatives he has overseen in his career, including the establishment of a legal department from scratch, the implementation of a ‘legally secure decision mechanism’ and undertaking the responsibilities of the compliance function and being responsible for adopting a compliance culture. Elaborating on these highlights, Tekergül says, ‘By carrying out these tasks and projects, I had the chance to contribute to achieving the strategic goals of the related companies. I also determined strategic topics in order to ensure business continuity and establish a harmony with the other departments and global policies of the shareholders. Hence, we updated and put into place separate legal procedures regulating each area of our practice such as corporate secretary activities, contract management, regulatory monitoring, litigations and compliance key controls’. Another feature of his tenure with vdf was being involved on a merger transaction with MAN Financial Services-Turkey. Tekergül began his in-house legal career at Şekerbank in 2005. After two years he moved to HSBC in Turkey, spending over seven years there and gaining a number of promotions in the process. He left as head of litigation and global functions in 2015 to join vdf and is currently involved in an asset-based securitisation project which will be a first for a finance company in Turkey.
ABB’s global technology operation has been honed to a high degree of efficiency over the course of an over-100 year history, with Turkey being one of the many regions that the company maintains a significant presence in. Serdar Tunçbilek is country general counsel and integrity officer for ABB in Turkey, having taken over in January 2016. Prior to this, he had a highly creditable tenure with Philips, achieving a number of notable successes over the course of a six-and-a-half year period. This was on the back of half a decade with Bener Law Office of Istanbul, where Tunçbilek first developed his skills as a lawyer in the technology sector.
Following her graduation from the Faculty of Law at Marmara University in 2005, Miraç Ucankale Yuce went on to establish herself as one of Turkey’s leading legal professionals, initially impressing in private practice at Gur Law Firm before moving in-house, a decision that has helped develop her skills as a lawyer: ‘Since in-house counsel are always in the middle of action, I believe that our work is more exciting and sophisticated’, she comments. In her current role at ALJ Holdings she provides full legal support to over 10 subsidiary companies that engage in sectors ranging from automotives (as distributor for Toyota and Lexus cars), finance, insurance, construction and pre-owned vehicles. In nearly three years at ALJ, Ucankale has improved the efficiency of the legal function with a resulting reduction in spend on external counsel. Having created close relationships across ALJ’s affiliates, Ucankale has consistently received positive feedback from her internal colleagues for her ongoing support of the business.
Nominated during the research process by a private practice source, renowned country legal counsel for Citibank in Turkey Süreyya Uğurses is a highly accomplished banking in-house lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in the field. Also included on the GC Powerlist: Turkey in 2015 and GC Powerlist: Turkey Teams in 2016, Uğurses has worked for some of the country’s biggest local and global banks, including İşbank, HSBC and Eurobank. She joined Citibank in 2011 as the country legal counsel, company secretary and assistant general manager reporting to the CEO. A true leader, she has created an environment where lawyers have a strong sense of purpose. She strongly feels that building a legal team is about being talent makers, rather than talent takers. Uğurses also believes a legal counsel should be a connected business leader with high integrity and sound judgment, whose effectiveness depends as much on their soft skills as their technical expertise. Working during an era of speed, technology, innovation and regulatory scrutiny, she led the work to ensure the balance between local and global legal requirements. Uğurses says that close cooperation and transparency between the legal team and the business is the key to success.
Previously a highly regarded legal counsel in the accounting world, having been at EY and Arthur Andersen for four years in total, Özlem Uluışık moved to Zorlu Holding in March 2007, and has consolidated her reputation since. Providing legal support to the endeavours of one of the premier corporate groups in Turkey, with multi-billion dollar revenues and a large portfolio of subsidiaries requires a legal mind that is versatile, experienced and assertive, and Uluışık embodies these qualities thoroughly. Aside from the commercial acumen that she brings to the role, Uluışık has particular expertise in corporate and antitrust law, though her versatility means she is also adept at commercial litigation and IP matters.
Founded over 90 years ago, Sabancı Holding is the parent company of Sabancı Group, Turkey’s largest industrial and financial conglomerate which operates in 18 countries and markets their products across the world. Ruba Unkan, one of Turkey’s most talented in-house lawyers and an ‘excellent team leader’ according to nominators, has enjoyed two separate spells at the corporation. Re-joining Sabancı as a director of legal affairs in 2014, Unkan has played an important role in overhauling and restructuring the legal department to create a function capable of seamlessly providing commercially-focused legal advice. Given the number of Sabancı Holding’s joint ventures with international partners and the wide array of sectors Sabancı Holding and its affiliates operate in globally, Unkan’s in-house legal qualities have been demonstrated consistently on a range of activities, whilst working closely and as an integral part of project teams. In her first stint at the company between 2006 and 2013 as legal counsel, Unkan worked on M&As, joint ventures, general corporate law and intellectual property law, playing a key role on structuring the legal framework of international and domestic M&A transactions.
Hilal Utku is L’Oréal’s legal director for Turkey and a member of the country management committee. Since joining L’Oréal, Utku has had a big impact on the Turkish legal department by prioritising personal interaction, helping to build trust and respect across the team and with other departments. She has also successfully positioned the function as a business partner, something which she says helps the team to both implement projects and to protect the company’s interests: ‘Once you build these relationships, business consults you more frequently, which is the best way to ensure compliance. [Effective] compliance and legal risk management is a natural outcome of this working style’. Utku’s work has been noted by numerous stakeholders, both internally and externally, and has helped the company deal with recent regulatory changes in the Turkish market. Her unique ability to build rapport and form synergies with external counsel has also enabled her to deliver complex compliance projects. Utku previously spent five years within HP’s in-house legal department in Turkey, during which time she also spent two years as a remote country counsel for Greece, in which capacity she worked without any local in-house support and helped to build a close working relationship with the local leadership team. Another highlight from Utku’s role at HP was her involvement in a compliance project in consumer law, which led to noticeable reduction in the company’s disputes portfolio. She began her career as a consultant and senior counsel at the ACTECON Competition and Regulation Consultancy.
Experienced aviation lawyer Ali Uysal has been the head legal counsel for Turkish Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, for the last three years heading all of its legal operations and managing more than 30 employees in the legal function. Leading significant changes in the legal department during his time there, Uysal has introduced a law office management system that has facilitated the organisation’s litigation function. He has also been behind a specialisation process that divided lawyers into sub-departments in accordance to their past practice experience and expertise in addition to setting up a monitoring and reporting structure for the legal teams of the 220 local branches of Turkish Airlines. Uysal highlights his participation in two major agreements that transformed the airline. In 2011, following the ratification of the Cape Town Convention by Turkey, he worked very closely with the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority to explain the legal status in the country regarding the implementation of the agreement. In March 2015, Uysal took part in Turkish Airlines’ first capital market issuance that has introduced the airline to a wider investor base and has created a benchmark for enhanced equipment trust certificates (EETC) transactions by airlines in emerging markets. Prior to this role Uysal had a four year spell at SunExpress Airlines where his role involved legal counselling in corporate issues for day-to-day management of the company, delivering legal opinions, as well as the follow up on litigations and execution proceedings. This role helped him build his knowledge in civil aviation law, competition law, aircraft finance and contract law finance.
Founded in 2002, GAMA Energy develops and invests in power and water infrastructure projects in Turkey and the surrounding region. Aybars Yağız joined the company in 2012 as its first legal counsel and now heads a legal team of nine lawyers. During his five-year tenure at the company, Yağız has achieved a number of notable successes, whilst, in parallel, transforming the legal function. Over the last several years, for instance, he built up a compliance mechanism and set up the legal team to provide legal services internally in a variety of disciplines. He has also consistently encouraged his team to be active in its associations with various organisations in the sector, thus expanding its network of contacts in the Turkish in-house community. Yağız has been a key factor in a number of transactions for GAMA energy, including the exit of GE Energy Financial Services and the simultaneous entry of International Finance Corporation and Tenaga Nasional Berhad as shareholders of the company alongside GAMA Holding. Commenting on this important change, Yağız says, ‘it was a superb experience in terms of time management, diversity of transactions and work distribution given the size of the deals’. He also cites managing a ‘nine-digit USD arbitration’ which took four years to conclude as another major career highlight. ‘Every stage of the arbitration, especially the hearing enhanced my strategic thinking, and indeed, teamwork’, he says. Yağız has also been commended for successfully concluding five multimillion dollar company acquisitions during his time at GAMA energy. Keen to help the wider community, Yağız has started fund raising for children fighting leukaemia, funding all the needs of the children in a selected hospital. To add to his repertoire, he recently began an executive MBA course at Bilkent University which is expected to be completed in 2019.
German based energy giant, EWE, entered the Turkish gas market in 2007, establishing itself as the first and largest international investor in the market, with more than 850 employees and a consolidated turnover of TRY 2.14bn recorded in 2014. That same year, the company employed legal manager Ruşen Gürlük Yarpınar to provide legal assistance to its further growth plans. She has facilitated the company’s progression by leading all of EWE Turkey’s M&A transactions including recent acquisitions of telecommunications and solar companies and setting up joint ventures. Yarpınar has also been commended internally for her ability to communicate and work closely with senior figures. Besides advising C-level executives and the board of directors at EWE Turkey with respect to strategic transactions, she liaises with relevant departments in Turkey and Germany to protect the company against legal risks. With such impressive achievements and skills under her belt, Yarpınar looks set to continue playing an important role in the holding’s immediate future.
Following a two-and-a-half year period as a competition and M&A lawyer at ELIG law firm, Yelda Dogan Yasarturk moved in-house to join GSK as a legal manger in Turkey. ‘I decided to move out of my comfort zone,’ she recalls. ‘When I was working in ELIG law firm as an associate, I always knew that I should be doing something more than advising clients and working on ad-hoc matters. Hence, I focused on other skills which helped me to move faster towards understanding the business dynamics, the way business works, the company culture and the processes. I did not only focus on advising clients but also focused on the bigger picture, so that I could advise on the strategy as well. Then I realized that I like asking questions, and acting like a detective to understand the focus of the company. Hence, I made my decision and moved to GSK in 2009 as an in-house legal counsel’. Upon joining GSK, Yasarturk quickly progressed in her role, extending her responsibilities to cover legal support of projects in Turkey, Middle East, North Africa and Commonwealth of Independent State (CIS) regions. ‘Due to the complex and risky nature of each region, working in this area helped me to better understand cultural sensitivity, show flexibility and adaptability, and strengthen my skills on making decisions in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty,’ she says. As working as an in-house lawyer in the pharmaceuticals sector requires high degree of business perspective and commercial alignment with business priorities, Yasarturk improved the integration of the legal team with the rest of the company. Important transactional achievements for Yasarturk include her work on finalising strategic business development negotiations and deals, her support of the global divestment of GSK’s consumer healthcare business on a local level, her drafting of an extensive legal policy covering new ways of working in the direct supply markets and her provision of legal support on the establishment of MENA/CIS pharma, consumer and good manufacturing services hubs in Istanbul.
As one would expect of Google’s legal counsel for Turkey, Kutay Yayın is an IT and technology legal expert. As a private practice lawyer for Dentons, he was a TMT specialist, and when he moved over to Nokia in January 2011 quickly ascended up the ranks to become Central European legal counsel. He took on a similar role with Microsoft in 2014, before settling in to his current position with Google in early 2015. Described by sources as a very talented lawyer who is able to handle a demanding workload whilst simultaneously maintaining first-class professional relationships with internal and external colleagues, he has had also had a significant positive effect on building the reputation of the legal department internally, again showing off his excellent interpersonal skills to go with his abundant legal knowledge.
A highly experienced in-house counsel with an extremely detailed understanding of what is needed to provide outstanding legal support to the company, Kenan Yılmaz has been in the legal department of industrials giant and Fortune global 500 company Koç Holding since 1989. He has received a series of promotions during this time, and became chief legal counsel of the over-€20bn revenue company in 2006. Yılmaz has overseen a corresponding expansion of the responsibilities of the legal department as his role has increased, and now the input of the legal team is seen as indispensable when making a business decision. A part of the company’s business committee, Yılmaz has excellent business acumen to go along with his legal nous, and the increased efficiency he has created company-wide through his coordination of these matters has a huge impact; for a company with almost 100,000 employees, this resonates outside the business also. Given that Koç Holding is Turkey’s largest conglomerates, Yılmaz occupies one of the most prominent in-house legal positions in the country.
Verging on megaproject status, the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) is a multi-billion dollar pipeline project that aims to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Europe. Naturally, the legal support of such a complex and high profile endeavour, with a large number of important and powerful stakeholders, is required to be comprehensive and thorough. Zeynep Gazali Yilmazer is director of legal affairs for the project, and is ideally placed to take on the demanding responsibilities of the role. Prior to working for TANAP, she was a senior legal counsel with the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) a related company in the energy sector that provided her with invaluable transferable skills and knowledge of the energy sector that have informed her current strategies. Looking back fondly on her career, Yilmazer says, ‘the three most exciting and intriguing projects during my career have defiantly been the Petlim Port project, the SOCAR Gas project and, most of all, the TANAP project which is a $11bn [valued] pipeline project. These projects have allowed me to gain an extensive insight into the energy sector both in Turkey and in the world by providing an opportunity to experience the commencing, finalisation and execution of a project’. In addition to supervising and drafting a plethora of engineering, procurement and construction contracts, she has also taken the lead in the oversight and management of an array of shareholder and project financing agreements with such institutions as the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB). On top of this, she plays an integral role on the main operational agreements of the project such as gas transportation agreements and operation agreements with shippers, interconnection agreements with the transmission system operators at the Turkish border in Georgia and Greece and the drafting and finalisation of engineering and procurement contracts regarding the construction stage of the project. Before moving in-house to the energy sector, Yilmazer enjoyed five successful years in private practice, first at law firm DLA Piper then at Güzeldere Law Firm.
Supporting a bank with 647 branches and 13,000 employees is not an easy task for Emel Yılmaz Özbay’s legal team, as it requires her lawyers to work around the clock and demonstrate a wide range of expertise across several areas of the law. Fortunately, since joining the company in March 2004, Özbay has put considerable efforts in streamlining and automating the internal organisational structure within the department, which is now capable to seamlessly provide legal assistance to the bank’s branches on all legal issues, import, export and investment projects and issues related to real estate. Over the years Özbay has also made an impression on internal colleagues with her ability to resolve important litigation cases for the bank, whilst simultaneously ensuring compliance with relevant legislation. Formerly, Özbay worked in the legal division of Koçbank, where she contributed immensely to the bank’s share sale to UNICREDITO and during the integration period of Italian procedures and Italian employees to the bank and Turkey.
Erem Turgut Yücel has been chief legal counsel of Doğan Şirketler Grubu Holding since August 2017. As a central part of a company that has added significant value to the Turkish economy for nearly 60 years, the Doğan group of companies are known for their innovative approach and forward-thinking vision playing a pioneering role in a wide range of sectors, which include media, energy and retail, as well as industry, real estate and automotive marketing, tourism and financial services. Under Yücel’s management, the legal department have tackled each related legal problem by ensuring compliance to new regulations, developing different methods of business conduct and implementing adapted strategies. Before Doğan, Yücel held senior legal positions at other prominent Turkish companies such as Hürriyet Newspaper and E.Emlak Bankasi. He was also a director of the Istanbul Bar from 2002 to 2004.
From her base in Istanbul, Funda Zeynep Ekincioğlu leads both the legal and compliance functions at the Turkish operation of global healthcare leader MSD, and has a history of providing ‘sound judgment and reasoning along with excellent project management abilities (including management of resources, time, budgets and scope)’, according to a nominating source. Owing to the wide scope of MSD’s business in Turkey – which has existed since 1993 – Ekincioğlu is required to be flexible and provide advice in a speedy and accurate way. To assist with this, she implemented a number of efficiencies since joining MSD Turkey in 2016 such as process improvement and simplification within the legal department and streamlining the company’s complex court litigation cases. Elaborating on this, Ekincioğlu says, ‘We have analysed each and every court case that we have lost to understand the underlying reasons and as a result work with human resources and other lines of business for process improvements. To do that, I have converted the line of business and legal relationship into a strong partnership where legal has been involved in all potential legal matters early in the game with a proactive strategy in mind’. Other highlights of her time at MSD include completing a data privacy project in the market following the enactment of new personal data protection laws, managing the legal and strategic side of the public tender processes with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and completing a competition law assessment across all functions in the company. She has also led a number of compliance programs to further protect MSD Turkey from the wide of range of legal risks associated with a multinational pharmaceutical companies operating in the region. Before her current role, Ekincioğlu spent over three years at Pfizer as a legal counsel in Turkey. In that role – her first in the healthcare sector – she gained particular recognition for leading on a number of important company projects including the merger process of Pfizer and Ferrosan, direct procurement transactions with the MoH and a major demerger of Pfizer Turkey’s business. Before embarking on her professional legal career, Ekincioğlu graduated from the law faculty at Marmara University in 2008.
Over her ten year tenure at the major Turkish conglomerate Akkök Holdings, Çağla Zıngıl has been involved in a number of important projects, including a series of recent shareholder disputes and a merger between Akkök Holdings’ two public companies, which coincided with the amendment period of the main Turkish Codes. ‘It was a really challenging situation to finalise the transaction in a vague regulatory environment’, Zıngıl says in reference to the deal. Her earlier noteworthy work includes the landmark share purchase of 50% of one of the holding’s companies to a foreign investor, as well a separate share purchase transaction from the Privatization Authority together with the same potential foreign investor. The unique experience that Zıngıl managed to acquire by negotiating against and together with the same party has had a positive impact on her career. Upon joining Akkök Holdings in 2007, Zıngıl successfully established the structure of the legal department from the ground up. ‘I had to form and structure the legal department within the holding company and partly in the group companies,’ she recalls. ‘All the legal services were being obtained from law firms and an outside counsel at the time. Corporate and legal documentation were being kept by the accounting departments or the outside counsel.‘ To change this approach, Zıngıl expanded the legal team, simultaneously forming and structuring the corporate and legal documentation filing systems. ‘We applied and perfected corporate governance principles and internal rules and guidelines within the group and supported the formation of the group’s code of conducts together with other relevant departments,’ she adds. ‘I believe we made our colleagues from other departments to trust us and enjoy and appreciate the legal support we provide’. Prior to assuming her present role, Zıngıl amassed substantial legal experience at Paksoy Law Firm and Turkish bank Garanti Bankası A.Ş.
We began our journey 20 years ago in modest conditions, and the destination we have arrived at makes us truly happy and proud. Several in-house lawyers who we count as friends crossed paths with us in our decades-long journey. We are thankful to the contributions of our teammates past and present, and our clients who continue entrusting us with their businesses.
Present - Why The Legal 500 Powerlist Sponsorship is important to us
We have sponsored the GC POwerlist for three consectutive years becuase we truly believe in-house lawyers play a crucial role in the healthy management of a company. Previously, in-house counsel acted according to company instructions; currently, in-house legal departments are like pilots flying in the dark of night without a navigation device. Corporate law departments shoulder tremendous resposibilities in the assesment, calculation and management of risks. We are pleased to see the quality of companies' in-house legal departments increases every year.
In this context, we want to contribute to all efforts and organisations developing better communication between in-house lawyers. The Legal 500's GC Powerlist event will provide the necessary platform to further in-house lawyer dialogue, likely leading to the formation of crucial market practices.
At the end of the day, we all are lawyers working in the same sector and any measure that strengthens communication with each other will yield positive results for the legal practice and enviroment. In turbulent times such as these, where the slightest strategy mistake can threaten a company's future, it is inspiring to know our colleagues are playing significant roles in the execution of company-wide strategies.
Future - Increasing importance of quality in-house counsel in Turkey
We are aware of the critical importance of corporate law departments, an importance that will only increase in the comin years.
In-house lawyers best understand the daily operations, needs and strategies of a company; they provide seamless and optimal organization between assigned offices. Outsourced lawyers are unable to infiltrate a company's inner workings the same way; therefore, in-house lawyers have a greater responsibility and advantage.
In-House lawyers are a company's backbone. The necessity of working as a team to ensure the coordination of managers and external experts for successful outcomes is indiputable. We believe corporate law departments, an increasingly vital part of a company's team, will enhance productive teamwork
One of the most important concerns for companies is sustainability. Companies must unquestionably develop ethical and appropriate codes of conduct to acheive sustainability, especially in countries such as Turkey. In order to ensure continuity, companies able to grasp this concept will ensure their longevities, while those unable to adhere will threaten their futures by scrambling for short-term solutions on a daily basis.
The expansion of regulatory areas such as information technologies will again revealthe importance of expertise. In addition to their in-house legal department's expertise of core areas, companieswill have to seek outside advice regarding niche fields. We, as Esin Attorney Partnership try to deepen our knowledge by establishing dedicated departments for nearly every area of law. We believe other law firms on the market will follow suit, thereby widening their scope of services and influence to better serve themselves and their clients.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.