BBJ Expat CEO of the Year 2023 Shortlist Revealed


The Budapest Business Journal has officially revealed the three-person shortlist for its annual Expat CEO of the Year Award, one of the most anticipated events in the expat business calendar.

Nine years ago, an idea began to crystalize to launch an award recognizing the unique contribution expat CEOs make to the Hungarian economy. It sought to highlight the impact an outside perspective can make: viewpoints, cultural backgrounds, and skillsets that are not better but different. It aimed to draw attention to the benefits of inclusion and diversity.

We believe that, nine years later, we can call the award a genuine success. The Expat CEO of the Year Award has become genuinely prestigious. The black-tie gala at which we present the award is now a calendar highlight for our invited CEOs, their partners, leading diplomats, and top decision-makers. The next installment is just around the corner on Friday, March 24.

Last year saw our first Italian winner of the award, Giacomo Pedranzini, the CEO of Kometa 99 Zrt. After a COVID-induced delay to the gala of 18 months, Erik Slooten, CEO of Deutsche Telekom IT Solutions Hungary, was selected as the 2021 Expat CEO of the year. His immediate predecessor, albeit one named in January 2020, was BlackRock’s Melanie Seymour. Taira-Julia Lammi, CEO of ABB Hungary Kft., won the award in 2019, while in 2018, the title went to Marc de Bastos Eckstein, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Components Technology Hungary Kft. In 2017, it was Jörg Bauer, then of GE Hungary; in 2016, it was Jost Ernst Lammers of Budapest Airport Zrt., and the inaugural award was presented in 2015 to Javier González Pareja, of Bosch Magyarország.

The Expat CEO of the Year Award 2023 Shortlist

Veronika Spanarova has been the managing director and Citi country officer for Hungary since January 2021, having originally moved to the country as a director in September 2020. She was previously director and Citi country officer for Slovakia from 2016 to September 2020, and before that, was head of retail banking in the Czech Republic. From 2005 to 2009, she dealt with Global Transaction Services and Global Securities, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She began her career with Citi in her native Czech Republic in February 1995. Married and a mother of three, she says even as a child Hungary was no stranger to her; she says she learned to swim on family holidays to Lake Balaton.
Andreas Szakácsi has worked for Claas, a German family-run mittelstand business that is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of agricultural engineering equipment, for 21 years. He is currently the managing director and speaker of the board for the Hungarian subsidiary Claas Hungária and is based in Törökszentmiklós, in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, about 122 km southeast of Budapest by road. He started out working at the German parent company in Harsewinkel, North Rhine-Westphalia, in October 2001 as a project manager. Prior to that, he had worked for thyssenkrupp Steel in Germany from November 1992 until September 2001, by which time he was the head of logistics. He is a German national with family connections to Hungary.
American national Matt Zeller, the country president of Novartis Hungary since December 2021, first started working for the Swiss-based pharmaceutical manufacturer in Basel in November 2014 as director of global pharma strategy. He returned to the United States with the company in November 2016 and, in July 2020, moved to Budapest, initially as general manager for pharmaceuticals and rare diseases. Prior to joining Novartis, he worked for more than four years for The Boston Consulting Group, including stints in Shanghai City, China, and New York, eventually serving as its principal. An ankle injury ended a brief career as a professional baseball player in the fall of 2005. Zeller serves on the boards of both the American and the Swiss-Hungarian chambers of commerce.

The Budapest Business Journal, Hungary’s leading business biweekly publication, founded the award in 2015 to recognize the efforts of expat CEOs in Hungary, both for their companies and the country. The title is awarded to the person living and working in Hungary who has done the most for this country’s development and international recognition through their professionalism and outstanding achievements last year. 

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