Mr. Suzer graduated from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and will be managing the group in the future with his brother Baran. The young entrepreneur Suzer discussed the group’s future plans and targets with Turk of America.
How did a big enterprise such as Ritz-Carlton meet with Suzer Group? What kind of an influence did your cooperation with Ritz-Carlton have in implementing your international plans? What sort of new horizon did it open for your group?
Our cooperation with Ritz-Carlton started with the Marriott Group. Our familiarity with the Marriott Group goes back to the ‘80s. Marriott was first contacted for management of the Suzer Palza Building, which Ritz-Carlton is currently occupying. When the Marriott Group bought Ritz-Carlton, we requested Ritz-Carlton as the managing company brand.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel didn’t open any new horizons for our group, it gave a new horizon to the hotel sector in Istanbul. It improved standards and introduced new concepts in the sector. All the other hotels were forced to take us as a benchmark and renew and improve themselves. To give an example, we were the first to use the van-type big cabs in Istanbul. The changes in employment procedures, MARSHA reservation system of the Marriott Group, One Yield Income Management System of Ritz-Carlton, employee management system, VPN, purchasing system, and the use of wireless internet are examples of other firsts.
Do you have new international projects in tourism? What are your plans in Turkey?
We have some new international projects in the tourism sector. We are planning regional expansion. We would like to utilize our know-how in land development and invest in urban hotels in Romania, Russia and Bulgaria. In Turkey, Antalya, Izmir and Uludag are the locations we would like to invest in.
We had plans in the past to invest in quality hotels in Anatolia. We even had an agreement with one of the world’s largest hotel management companies. But we had to suspend this decision after the banking crises. We can reevaluate investing in 4 or 5 star hotels in various Anatolian cities according to the economic development in Turkey.
What are the sectors in which Suzer Group is planning to expand its activities in the short term?
Suzer Group decided to continue its activities in the areas where it is actively involved. Land development (such as Bahcesehir, Saklisekir), restaurants (we could add other brands besides expanding Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Turkey), and energy and facility management are the areas in which we are planning to increase our business.
Do you have any plans to expand in the US market?
In the long run, we are planning to specialize in land development in the US. There some projects on the table, but these will require some time before being implemented.
We have a 35 year management agreement with Ritz-Carlton; we have franchise agreements with KFC and Pizza Hut, and a 16 year term credit agreement with OPIC (Overseas Investment Corporation, a credit institution of the US Government extending credit to the private sector). In addition to these we had signed management agreements for Soma and Orhaneli thermal power plants with Pacificorp (merged with Scottish Power), and later with CSWI (merged with AEP). Unfortunately, due to the distant position of the new managements after the mergers towards international projects and the cancellation of the bids, the cooperation with these companies came to an end.
As a person who was educated abroad, what are your recommendations to students abroad in terms of returning to Turkey? What is your group’s attitude towards the students returning after finishing their studies abroad?
I do not think that any Turk would like to pursue a long-term career abroad, except during periods of economical crisis. I think that every Turk would like to return to his/her country at the end. The main reason for this is the family and friendship relations, our immeasurable culture, our food and all the other blessings of our country. If we approach the matter in terms of the brain-drain, education is the most important problem our country is facing. Thus, there is always a need for people educated abroad, with quality educations. Besides employing people with foreign education, our group is also sending our employees for education abroad. Because we have a high level of international connections, we always need people with foreign education.
Is there a project you completed within the group?
The Ritz-Carlton Project in Istanbul is the project I started and finished for the group.
Do you have any mentors helping you with your duties, which you assumed at such a young age?
I always exchange ideas with members of our board of directors and high-level managers here, and they advise me from time to time. Of course, I try to develop myself in my field.
What Serhan Suzer’s plans for the future?
I would like to specialize in land development. I would also like to specialize in energy and tourism sectors, which I consider as part of land development.
WHO IS SERHAN SUZER?
Born in 1977 in Istanbul, he completed his education at Istek Foundation Kemal Ataturk High School and McGill University, Montreal. He broadened his education by attending summer courses at Kent College (Canterbury, U.K.), Harvard Summer School (Boston, U.S.A.), Alliance Française (Paris, France) and Alba Institute (Athens, Greece). After his training and/or employment at KFC (London, U.K.), Kentbank (Istanbul, Turkey), Banque du Bosphore (Paris, France), BME (subsidiary of Generali Insurance, Kansas City, U.S.A.) he became asset manager for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel project in 2001. Since 2002 he has been responsible for KFC and Pizza Hut projects, in 2003 he took responsibility for the foreign relations of the Suzer Group, and has been the Media and Public Relations Coordinator since 2004. (June 2005, Issue 17th)