The Turkish club Besiktas first entered the realm of discussion in North America last year when they inked Allen Iverson to a two-year contract. Prior to that, they were relatively unknown in terms of the major European basketball clubs, as the likes of Barcelona and Panathinaikos are the most recognized clubs when discussing Euro-ball on this side of the pond. But now Besiktas is starting to turn some heads, but who are they and where is this money coming from?
In July, Besiktas announced that they had come to terms with All-Star guard Deron Williams on a deal that is reported to pay him $250,000 a month. Now they are rumoured to be in talks Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in an attempt to compile as many Association players as possible during this lockout season.
Similar to many European sports clubs, Besiktas is not just a one sport shop. The Istanbul based club has teams in soccer, volleyball, handball and several other sports that they compete in across the world. But their basketball team in receiving a serious influx of funds with all of these world class players all of a sudden available on the open market.
The club is chaired by a man by the name of Yıldırım Demirören. He is the third generation owner of a the Demirören Group of Companies who specialize in liquid gas distribution in Turkey. They have also dabbled in media ownership with the recent purchase of the countries two biggest newspapers, Milliyet and Vatan. So Mr. Demirören clearly has some money to throw around, but there are also a few little questions about his integrity.
Such questions often arise when you become a businessman of such stature. But it was just a few months ago when he was arrested in a soccer match-fixing probe. This is certainly not uncommon in the soccer world, as Italy especially has been ravaged by such findings. Whenever match-fixing is brought up, association with organized crime is always the first thought. While it is difficult to find much information in English about the allegations against Demirören, there is always a possibility that there are a few things going on behind the scenes that are less than savoury.
It is clear that Demirören has cash to spend as the kingpin of liquefied petroleum gas in a country of 78 million. He is a bit of a blue blood in the sense that he was shipped off to Leysin American School for high school in Switzerland. The private boarding school is frequented by the children of the elites of the world, with annual tuition coming in above $70,000 US. The man, and his family, clearly have some money. Now they are pouring it into Besiktas in a serious way.
But should any of these NBA All-Stars be wary of getting into bed with a guy with possible questionable connections? One of the common problems that players have when playing with smaller European clubs is not getting paid on time, or at all, by their owners. Josh Childress has said that he will not return to play in Europe because of such issues. Besiktas have in fact failed to pay their players on time on occasion. There is much less structure in many of these leagues than in the Association, and with so many players living their paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, they need the constant influx of funds.
So the fact that Deron signed so quickly, and that Kobe and Durant are even considering joining Besiktas is a sign that the club is fairly reliable when it comes to signing checks. If you dug around the NBA, you could definitely find some owners with shady connections and questionable business partners. But it is done differently in other countries. There have been rumours of Besiktas paying absurd transfer fees for unknown soccer players, with the thought that they were whitewashing their books. Demirören has got his companies tied in with the club too, as huge amounts of cash have been washed through so he gets the money back, and the club posts losses.
Now things are really getting interesting. Word is that the assets of Besiktas have been frozen as part of the match-fixing probe, and they are not permitted to sign players at this time. Reports indicate that the Turkish cup final between Besiktas and IBB was one of the 19 games that were apparently fixed. According to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com, the club was close to signing Kobe to a deal for $450,000 a month, but that deal is now obviously in jeopardy. This could also make Deron’s contract an issue if the assets do not get freed up in the near future.
Maybe Besiktas simply was too good to believe.