The Budapest Business Journal handed out its Expat CEO of the Year award for the third time on February 10, honoring the most influential expat chief of 2016. The Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA), which has partnered the BBJ since the launch of the annual gala, also presented its own Local Partnership award, similarly for the third time.
Jörg Bauer, CEO of GE Hungary Kft., won the BBJ’s Expat CEO of the Year title at the celebratory gala held in the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. Ekkehard Philipp, CFO of Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Hungary Kft., picked up the HIPA Local Partnership accolade.
Founded by the BBJ and backed by official event partner HIPA, the awards honor the expat CEO who was seen as making the most important contribution to the Hungarian economy and society.
As the evening was reaching its climax with the presentation of the CEO award, last year’s awardee Budapest Airport CEO Jost Lammers highlighted the difficulty in finding the one chief on the shortlist who deserved the prize above all the others. “It was an extremely difficult decision process, as each of the candidates would really deserve the title,” Lammers said. “We had a lot of heated but professional discussions,” he added.
BBJ Expat CEO of the Year Jury
The tricky task of picking the winner goes to our regular jury, which, since the launch, has been comprised of Dr. László Szabó, Deputy Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Írisz Lippai-Nagy, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary; Dale A. Martin, President of the German- Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and President and CEO of Siemens Hungary; and Balázs Román, the CEO of Absolut Media Zrt., publisher of the Budapest Business Journal. By tradition, the fifth seat on the jury is taken by the previous year’s winner, meaning Jost Ernst Lammers, CEO of Budapest Airport Zrt., got to see the process from the other side.
Eventually though, the board of judges unanimously decided to acknowledge the chief of GE Hungary. “I am very honored to be part of such a distinguished group of nominees, I believe anybody could be standing here,” said Bauer in accepting the prize. “When I came here to Hungary I would not have ever thought that I would be standing here,” he said addressing the crowd in Hungarian. “This award is a great motivation for all of us to find solutions that work for our companies and the country of Hungary well,” he added.
As an addition to the accolade, Bauer also received a test drive for a week of BMW’s latest model to mark the worldwide launch of the all new BMW 5 series, provided by BMW Group Hungary.
Roll of Honor
BBJ Expat CEO of the Year
2017 - Joerg Bauer, CEO of GE Hungary
2016 - Jost Lammers, CEO of Budapest Airport
GE Hungary had a busy and productive year in 2016. In October the company inaugurated its Global Digital Development Center in Budapest through a HUF 8 billion investment, creating almost 1,500 jobs in the country. GE Steam Power Systems is also said to be among a number of companies in the running to supply the turbines for the upgrade of Hungaryʼs sole nuclear power plant in Paks.
Giving an introduction to the whole evening, HIPA President Róbert Ésik said that his institution has a “beautifully complex product” to sell, which is Hungary itself. “We try to position and sell [Hungary] worldwide as a location for investment and doing business,” the president said. He noted that his organization is committed to providing reliable advice, tries to provide funds where it can, and seeks to ensure that the voice of companies is heard by the Hungarian government.
This year’s runners up for the 2017 BBJ Expat CEO of the Year award were: Marc de Bastos Eckstein, executive director of ThyssenKrupp Presta Hungary Kft.; Rick P. Enders, general manager of Budapest Marriott Hotel & Marriott Executive Apartments; Jesper Hassellund Mikkelsen, senior vice president of European Moulding and DUPLO, head of LEGO Moulding Denmark, and general manager of LEGO Manufacturing Hungary; and Stephan Interthal, general manager of the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest.
When receiving his Local Partnership Award accolade from Ésik, Ekkehard Philipp said he was surprised by the agency’s decision to choose him. “It was a really big surprise and I was not prepared for this.… I am very grateful and deeply touched and almost speechless, which is unusual for me,” he added. “Mercedes-Benz and Hungary belong together. We are here to stay.”
HIPA worked with Mercedes-Benz Hungary last year as the auto manufacturer made another significant investment in the country. At the end of July, the Hungarian subsidiary announced it would be doubling the capacity of its Hungarian plant in Kecskemét through an investment of EUR 1 billion. By the end of the decade, the company expects to launch production and create 2,500 new workplaces.
While maintaining that the investment is a “very positive message” for the country, Phillip also warned that there is room for Hungary to improve in certain areas, such as the lack of manpower, the education system, as well as the implementation of the public administration.
BMW’s ‘invisible factory’
BMW Group Hungary offered a special prize of a test drive of its all new BMW 5 series model to the Expat CEO of Year, and another to a member of the audience drawn from a bowl. The 5 series only received its worldwide launch the following day, on February 11. “It is a special pleasure to offer to the winner a unique test drive with the new BMW 5 series, on the worldwide launch of the model,” Baudouin Denis, managing director of BMW Group Hungary. He stressed that the new car is 100 kg less, is more dynamic and “more fun to drive”.
Denis also talked about investments and doing business in Hungary. “The first time I met a gentlemen called Viktor Orbán, he asked me when BMW would be coming to Hungary, because the country needs our factory,” Denis told the audience. “I told him, you are absolutely right, but we already have a factory in Hungary, but you can’t see it …. we have more than 65 partners in Hungary who are working for BMW day and night. They employ more than 10,000 people and they are delivering to all the factories BMW has worldwide, every single day. Those companies are key elements of the company, officially we spend EUR 1 billion in the country through these companies every single year.”