Gerkens: I would like to build another ‘Lego tower’

History

Dirk Gerkens, the former CEO of Hungaryʼs largest commercial TV channel RTL Klub, accepted government commissioner Andrew G. Vajna’s request to join TV2 as CEO saying that the key driver in his decision was largely “professionally motivated”, Gerkens said in an interview with Hungarian online daily index.hu published yesterday.

“Itʼs much like when a child builds a Lego tower before they destroy it. Now I want to build another one,” Gerkens said in reference to his motivation for joining TV2, the ownership structure of which is still unclear following a scandal involving Lajos Simicska’s business associate Károly Fonyó and governing Fidesz-friendly Andy Vajna who both claim they own the channel.

The Lego tower Gerkens is reportedly referring to was built during his 17 years at the RTL  - 14 of which were served as the CEO – prior to being fired by parent RTL Group. “I wanted to stay until the end of my contract. RTL had its own reasons, and though I do not agree with those and to them firing me, I understand what they did and why they did it. I have been in the profession for a long time; I have seen many similar cases,” Gerkens told index.hu.

Although Gerkens denied being a casualty of the battle between RTL Klub and the Hungarian government last year over the introduction of a new advertising tax, he reportedly said: “Have I been sacrificed? Yes. Why? I do not want to speculate” . “Relations between the channel and the government, I believe, worsened when the progressive ad tax was introduced [which was later withdrawn following an EC investigation] and it is true that the firm and the government held official negotiations on the issue, but without me, even without the involvement of the Hungarian management,” Gerkens told index.hu. Gerkens said that officially he was sent away from the channel because he had been leading it for 14 years, and a “refreshment” was needed, so he was offered a position in Africa. “I laughed at them,” Gerkens said about the offer.

In response to a query by index.hu, Gerkens admitted that the news on RTL Klub became much more critical of the Hungarian government after the introduction of the progressive ad tax, however, he was not involved in any of that, he says. “News was supervised from Luxembourg,” Gerkens says.

Commenting on TV2ʼs news show, he said that he believes "Andy" does not want to get involved in editing news, adding that he is satisfied with the current news editors. “I want a news director, who has direct connections to the country’s decision makers, who can acquire first-hand information,” Gerkens said. “If the editor asks for my opinion I am open to that … [but] I am planning to invest energy in entertaining shows, prime time shows, the cable portfolio, sales and online presence,” he added.

Gerkens did not comment on the scandal surrounding the acquisition of the television station, and said that any related issues should be discussed with Vajna, however, he denied having negotiated with Fonyó. “Andy Vajna employs me as the CEO of TV2, and this is the only thing I care about,” Gerkens told index.hu.

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