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“Business as usual” for Pozitif as founders step down

Despite rumours to the contrary, leading Turkish promoter Pozitif is alive and kicking, undeterred by a major corporate restructure and the loss of its two remaining co-founders, according to the company.

Pozitif, founded in 1989 by Cem Yegül and brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Uluğ, is one of the largest concert promoters in Turkey, with recent shows including Alt-J, Oscar and the Wolf, Editors, Jessie J, OneRepublic, Morrissey and Blondie. It also operates several venues, including Volkswagen Arena (5,800-cap.) and Babylon (450-cap.), both in Istanbul, and festivals Cappadox, Bodrum Music Festival and One Love Festival.

In 2013, it was acquired by the Doğuş Group conglomerate, whose wide-ranging corporate interests also include retail chains, energy companies, hotels and hospitality businesses, radio and TV stations and a string of car dealerships.

Recent speculation suggested Pozitif’s promotions business, hit hard by the recent collapse of the Turkish lira, was to be killed off, leaving just the venues – one insider told IQ earlier this summer he believed the company was “going down” imminently.

“We now have fewer people – however, we’re doing the same amount of work”

Additionally, Ahmet Uluğ announced in May he was leaving Pozitif after 29 years, while IQ learnt Yegül – most recently the company’s CEO and president – is also no longer part of the management structure, although he remains a partner. (Mehmet Uluğ passed away in 2013.)

However, far from “going down”, Doğuş is navigating the turbulent political and economic climate in Turkey better than many, according to Pozitif senior booker Elif Cemal, downsizing its operations while laying a solid foundation for Pozitif’s future.

“A lot of companies of all sizes have already restructured, or are now are restructuring, their organisations, laying off staff or closing some departments,” she tells IQ. “Some of these conglomerates, such as Doğuş, which has a lot of investments here and abroad, had to start this process a little bit earlier than some.

“At Pozitif, it’s true that we now have fewer people – however, we’re doing the same amount of work, in booking and live events team, marketing and media, finance… Currently, we are preparing to celebrate Pozitif’s 30th year, Babylon’s 20th year, Volkswagen Arena’s fifth year and the fifth anniversary of our new international destination festival, Cappadox, in 2019.”

“Fluctuations in Turkey are always expected and part of our lives”

Other than the departure of Uluğ and Yegül’s stepping back, “the operational management team is the same,” Cemal says. “Ayşegül Turfan, who has been with the company for over 20 years, is managing partner, I am here in my usual senior booker capacity, and I am glad to share that Mehmet Ağaoğulları has joined our booking and live entertainment department.”

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, “the political turmoil in Turkey […] hasn’t stopped the overall live entertainment business from growing”, with the local live music ticket market worth €69m and expected to grow 4% annually through 2022.

For Pozitif, “we will go on with Babylon club as usual, as well as the Cappadox, One Love, Babylon Soundgarden and Akbank Jazz Festivals in 2019 and Volkswagen Arena concerts,” concludes Cemal. “Maybe with not-too-ambitious line-ups, but smarter programmes…”

“As we all know, fluctuations in Turkey are always expected and part of our lives,” she adds, “so [the political situation] has not had a bigger effect on the live entertainment business than usual”. For Pozitif, then, she says – and the live industry in general – it’s “business as usual”.


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