Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the impact of ownership structure on dividend policy of listed firms in Turkey. Particularly, it attempts to uncover the effects of family involvement (through ownership and board representation), non-family blockholders (foreign investors, domestic financial institutions and the state) and minority shareholders on dividend decisions in the post-2003 period as it witnesses the major economic and structural reforms. Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses alternative dividend policy measures (the probability of paying dividends, dividend payout ratio and dividend yield) and uses appropriate regression techniques (logit and tobit models) to test the research hypotheses, by focusing on a recent large panel dataset of 264 Istanbul Stock Exchange-listed firms (non-financial and non-utility) over a 10-year period 2003-2012. Findings – The empirical results show that foreign and state ownership are associated with a less likelihood of paying dividends, while other ownership variables (family involvement, domestic financial institutions and minority shareholders) are insignificant in affecting the probability of paying dividends. However, all the ownership variables have a significantly negative impact on dividend payout ratio and dividend yield. Hence, the paper presents consistent evidence that increasing ownership of foreign investors and the state in general reduces the need for paying dividends in the Turkish market. Research limitations/implications – Because of the absence of empirical research on how ownership structure may affect dividend policy and the data unavailability for earlier periods in Turkey, the paper cannot make comparison between the pre-and post-2003 periods. Nevertheless, this paper can be a valuable benchmark for further research. Practical implications – The paper reveals that cash dividends are not used as a monitoring mechanism by investors in Turkey and the expropriation argument through dividends for Turkish families is relatively weak. Accordingly, the findings of this paper may benefit policymakers, investors and fellow researchers, who seek useful guidance from relevant literature. Originality/value – To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper is the first to examine the link between ownership structure and dividend policy in Turkey after the implementation of major reforms in 2003.