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Obituary: György Mosonyi, oil man With Soft Touch

“Tenderness” is not a word typically found in books on management or associated with high-flying chief executives – certainly not those in oft-perceived “macho” industries like oil and gas.

Yet for György Mosonyi, CEO of Hungary’s MOL between 1999-2011, who died on May 29 after a long battle with illness, it was a vital element of his character and management skills.

So says János Csák, a former investment banker and chairman of the Hungarian energy company for two rapid-fire years from 1998-2000, when he recruited Mosonyi to help transform MOL into a multinational corporation.

“[During] the acquisitions, Gyuri, as CEO, demonstrated such knowledge, and such a – it’s funny – such a tenderness in the negotiating process. I remember, I was almost the youngest guy, around 37, with all these seasoned oil men, they were all 50-plus.… But we had a balance. With Gyuri we laughed a lot. We worked together very well. He really cared about other people,” says Csák.

Mosonyi, who was born in Budapest in 1949, studied chemical engineering at Veszprém University before beginning his professional career with Áfor, the then state-owned filling station monopoly. In 1974, he moved to Shell at a time when the Dutch-U.K. energy company was one of the very first international corporations making tentative steps into a Hungary that was still very much a communist country.

During his tenure with Shell Hungary, Mosonyi moved into management, becoming commercial director in 1986, executive chairman in 1994 and chairman of Shell’s Central and East European region in 1997.

But, wooed by Csák’s vision of a stand-alone, Central and Eastern European energy group headquartered in Budapest, it was with MOL that Mosonyi arguably made his greatest contribution to Hungary’s corporate landscape.

“When I became chairman [of MOL] I wanted seasoned, internationally known people, because we had so much to do. Gyuri was reluctant, he was not sure that it would make sense. You know, a 50-year old man, cozy, good life on Pasaréti út and working for Shell,” Csák recalls.

More Potential

“He was a hero for me, and I told him there was more potential in the Hungarian talent. He was one of the very few who didn’t call me crazy when I told him what I wanted to do with MOL.” Persuaded, Mosonyi joined MOL in 1999, sending an email throughout the company saying: “I’ve come home.”

Together with Csák, Mosonyi negotiated MOL’s acquisition of Slovnaft in Bratislava and later the tie up with Croatia’s INA (although Csák had departed by then).

“Without him, the acquisitions wouldn’t have worked. Gyuri’s personality, readiness to help others and…. integrity. We didn’t trick [the foreign partners]. I never saw him play games,” says Csák.

Mosonyi stepped down as CEO in 2011, becoming chairman of the company’s supervisory board until his death.

Throughout his life, Mosonyi took an active part in numerous professional organisations, including stints as president of the Joint Venture Association (2000-06) and board member of Amcham (2002-05). A lover of classical music – Mosonyi was a keen supporter of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, amongst others – he led by example, indelibly affecting the lives of those he worked with.

Gábor Hegyi, a public relations adviser with MOL at the time, recounts an occasion around 2000 when the two were working into the night: “Gyuri suddenly turned to me and said: ‘You see, we are the only two left so late in the office. But that’s only right: because the CEO should be the first servant in the company.’”

Mosonyi is survived by his wife, Ágnes, daughters Nikoletta and Szilvia, and son Dániel.

György (Gyuri) Mosonyi, chemical engineer, chief executive, February 15, 1949-May 29, 2018 .