Chresten Bruun Wins Expat CEO of the Year Award 2024


Chresten Bruun

Chresten Bruun, general manager & senior vice president, EMEA Manufacturing in the Lego Group, won the Expat CEO of the Year title at the Budapest Business Journal’s annual awards gala, which was held for the 10th time on March 23 in the Grand Ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel Budapest.

The award is given to the foreign CEO working and living in Hungary who has made the most significant contribution to the development of the Hungarian economy and its international recognition in the previous year. The first gala took place in 2015. The distinguished event gathers a prestigious audience of business leaders, diplomats, and decision-makers at the hotel every year.

The Expat CEO of the Year is selected by a five-member professional jury on the day of the gala, just 30 minutes before the start of the event. The members of the jury include Lippai-Nagy Írisz, CEO of the Hungarian-American Chamber of Commerce; István Joó, CEO of HIPA; András Sávos, President of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce; and Balázs Román, CEO of BBJ. The fifth seat on the jury is occupied by the previous year's winner, Veronika Spanarova, who also participated in selecting her successor.

After opening the gala, BBJ editor-in-chief Robin Marshall invited Rita Szép-Tüske, the deputy CEO of the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (Hipa), to the stage, who highlighted the importance of foreign investment in Hungary.

"Economically vulnerable parts of the country are among the biggest winners of Hipa's past 10 years of operation. The Northern Hungary and the Northern Plain regions have welcomed nearly 160 projects in total in the past five years alone. And now BYD's flagship investment marks the quest for concentrating our resources in the southern part of the country," she told the audience

“These marvelous results would have been impossible without the fresh perspective and global experience that foreign business leaders bring to the table − whether they come from the west or the east, and regardless of the industry they work in,” she added.

Klehn, Heiszler Take Home Community Awards

In addition to the Expat CEO of the Year award, the Budapest Business Journal also handed out the Community Award for those company leaders who contributed greatly to solving issues related to diversity, inclusion, disability, or sustainability in the world of business.

This year, two exceptional business leaders won the Community Award: Spar Hungary’s president-CEO Gabriella Heiszler, and general manager of Budapest Marriott Hotel Arne Klehn, who was also nominated for the Expat CEO of the Year Award.

The award was presented for the second time this year; the first winner was Andrea Istenesné Solti, president of Shell Hungary Zrt. and HBLF.

10 Years of Recognizing the Efforts of the Expat Business Community

After the presentation of the Community Award came the highest point of the evening: the Expat CEO of the Year award. Over the last 10 years, the award has become one of the most prestigious accolades on the Hungarian business scene and among expat executives. The nine winners (six men and three women) of the past editions of the award also demonstrated great diversity over time. There have been three Germans (one of whom is half-Brazilian) and one each from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

“2015 and our first gala is a long time ago now, and Hungary was a different country. At the time, to judge from public discourse, even the idea of foreign-owned companies was a questionable virtue. We thought that was wrong. We wanted to show that different doesn’t necessarily mean better, but it can certainly mean finding another way of doing things. That diversity of thought, and background, and yes, of nationality and gender, help to create value. Today those ideas are much more widely accepted, and it is in no small part to the previous winners of this award. That Hall of Fame has helped set Hungary’s path to economic growth and prosperity,” Marshall noted.

After the guests finished the main course of the gala dinner, Robin Marshall, editor-in-chief of BBJ, introduced this year's nominees: Arne Klehn, general manager of Budapest Marriott Hotel; Raffaella Claudia Bondi, pharmaceutical executive & general manager of Roche; and Chresten Bruun, general manager & senior vice president, EMEA Manufacturing in the Lego Group.

Chresten Bruun Revealed as Expat CEO of the Year

After three videos introducing each of the 2024 nominees, last year's winner, Veronika Spanarova, took the stage carrying an envelope containing the winner's name. Excitement peaked as she opened the envelope, revealing Chresten Bruun as the winner of this year's Expat CEO of the Year Award.

“We started our operations here in 2008, with great support from Hipa and also from others who are represented here tonight. Later on, we built the new factory in 2014, and ever since we have continued to expand our operations here. But now it's also becoming even more important to invest in sustainability, and that means solar parks, geothermal energy, and also sustainable materials for our Lego toys,” said Bruun.

“So, we have a long past here in Hungary, and I believe we have an even longer future. We have a solid ground for that, with our amazing colleagues, and without them we couldn't produce our world-class products at such a high quality. Also, tonight I want to bring a big thanks to all of my colleagues back in the factory in Nyíregyháza,” he added.

The gala then extended late into the night, with guests mingling and networking in the foyer. Attendees enjoyed the hospitality of the Corinthia well past midnight, sampling delicious desserts and drinks while being entertained by the music of the Gabriel Farkas Band.

The event was supported by Penny, Shell, Citi, MSCI, Heineken, PwC, Synergy, Legrand, and Chocome. The official partner of the ceremony was the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (Hipa).

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