Turkish elite bids farewell to industrial dynasty chief

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkey's political and business elite Sunday made a rare show of unity to turn out in force at the funeral of the head of Turkey's biggest family-run industrial conglomerate, Mustafa Koc, who died last week aged 55.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu were among the mourners at the funeral at an Istanbul mosque for the Koc Holding CEO, who died on Thursday after a massive heart attack.

Koc was the third generation of the dynasty to lead the firm founded by his grandfather Vehbi Koc in the 1920s which now has interests in energy, defence, finance, home appliances and autos grouped together as Koc Holding.

Mustafa Koc took over as chief executive of Koc Holding in 2003 after the retirement of his father Rahmi Koc, now 85, who survives his son.

Rahmi Koc greeted the mourners along with his younger son Ali Koc in front of the coffin draped in a banner with an inscription in Ottoman Turkish script. The coffin also bore a ribbon from the family's favourite football team, Fenerbahce of Istanbul.

Turkey's family-run conglomerates are the mainstays of the country's economy with interests in every sector. Koc Holding alone accounts for around nine percent of Turkish exports and eight percent of its GDP.

In a sign of the family's importance in Turkey, roads were closed to allow the funeral cortege to proceed while TV channels interrupted schedules to provide several hours of live coverage.

- 'Incredible loss' -

Thousands of mourners were joined by sporting figures including Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim and political luminaries of the past including former prime minister Mesut Yilmaz and the widow of the late premier Bulent Ecevit, Rahsan.

In one of the largest gatherings of the Turkish elite in years, prominent Turkish businessmen also made rare public appearances at the funeral.

"Mustafa Koc is an incredible loss. Look at the size of the crowds here," banking tycoon and founder of the FIBA holding Husnu Ozyegin told NTV television.

But underlining the political tensions in Turkey, Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu -- locked in a bitter feud after the opposition chief called the president a "tinpot dictator" -- did not greet each other or make eye contact.

Mustafa Koc was respected in business circles for presiding over sustained growth at Koc Holding. But he also won admiration from Turkish liberals with support of anti-government protesters in 2013.

Koc allowed protesters in Taksim Square in Istanbul to take refuge in the nearby Divan Hotel, which is owned by the group, infuriating Erdogan who criticised Koc for harbouring "criminals".

The group then found itself the target of probes over alleged tax violations.

But Erdogan on Friday paid warm tribute to Koc, revealing that he had held talks with the businessman in Ankara just a day before he died.

"We even joked. We talked about weight loss issues. And I even quipped 'did you cut down on alcohol? It's time to stop completely'," said the pious president.

Mustafa Koc was buried in the family plot at the Zincirlikuyu cemetery in Istanbul, next to his grandfather Vehbi Koc.