Nine O’Clock ‘Persons of the Year 2010’ Gala Awards

This year’s big surprise: For the first time, the ‘Politician of the Year’ award has not been granted…

In a very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, over 120 guests representing foreign diplomats accredited in Bucharest, the business community and the financial-banking circles honoured us with their presence for the 20th edition of the traditional Nine O’Clock ‘Persons of the Year’ Gala Awards Thursday night. Every year, the publication awards the most notable achievements of the previous year in areas such as diplomacy, politics, finance and banking, investment and business, so on and so forth. A total of 10 awards were granted at this year’s gala, two of which being special awards. This edition was marked by a major surprise – an unprecedented fact in the entire history of the Nine O’Clock ‘Persons of the Year’ Gala Awards: the jury decided not to give the ‘Politician of the Year’ award this year…

‘The fact that this announcement received ovations from the audience only confirms that the jury made the right decision… which needs no additional explanations,’ publication director Radu Bogdan said. He insited on thanking the participants for having always stood by Nine O’Clock all those years, helping it exist, grow and develop in keeping with the readers’ expectations. ‘Without any doubt, the key to our success has been in our permanent efforts of the editorial team to offer the most fair and objective depiction of realities in Romania at a certain time,’ he said.

As usually, the night ended with an artistic moment. With his on-stage stature and outstanding performance of world opera favourites, Vlad Mirita, a tenor with the National Opera in Bucharest, enchanted the audience.

The awards ceremony Thursday night started with the granting of the Romanian Diplomat of the Year award to the Ambassador to China, Mr. Viorel Isticioaia – Budura, appointed as managing director for Asia in the European External Action Service (EEAS) at the end of last year – for his contribution to the development of the traditional relations between the two states, as well as for his new position as representative of Romania within EEAS. As the Ambasador Isticioaia – Budura was unable to come personally to the event, being engaged to the last official activities before the end of his mission in Beijing, the award was collected on his behalf by a former Romanian Ambassador to Beijing, Ioan Romulus Budura.

‘This distinction goes to the Romanian diplomacy that comes to the fore by its unchallengeable merits and virtues,’ the ex-ambassador stressed. In the message he sent, Viorel Isticioaia – Budura insisted to commend on the occasion the association of the publication and its management with ‘that intellectual rend now visible in the Romanian society to emphasise the need for Romanians to start looking at Asian and emergent states more.’

The ceremony continued with the awarding of the prize for the Foreign Diplomat of the Year, by unanimity, to Her Excellence Mrs. Ayse Sinirlioglu, the Ambas­sador of Turkey for her permanent efforts during her assignment in Bucharest towards developing bilateral relations of co-operation between the two countries, at a variety of levels. In the opening of her comprehensive speech, Mrs. Ayse Sinirlioglu said: ‘It is always a great challenge for an Ambassador to be appointed to a country with which their home country already enjoys excellent relations and cooperation across a broad range of issues. Expectations are high because much effort and creativity are required not only to maintain the existing close dialogue between the two countries but to create new areas of collaboration. This was the test I knew I would be facing when I assumed my responsibilities as the Ambassador of Turkey to Romania in April 2008. The award which I am honoured to receive is reassuring because it shows, with determination and dedication, it is possible to meet this challenge. (…) Nine o’clock assists us in our understanding of local, domestic and foreign issues in Romania.” In order to highlight the intensity of relations between the two countries, Her Excellency mentioned the high level visits expected from Turkey to Romania next month: in February, Minister of Energy, Taner Yildiz, and Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim, as well as the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Turkish Parliament, Murat Mercan. Earlier this month, Romanian Health Minister, Cseke Attila, was in Turkey for a bilateral visit and in March is expected in Ankara Minister of Justice Catalin Predoiu for consultations with his counterpart.

In terms of economic relations, Turkish-Romanian trade was adversely affected by global economic conditions in 2009. ‘In 2010 we were able to recover a sizable portion of that loss and the bilateral volume registered an increase of around 40 per cent. We should never lose our hope. Hope drives us to attain a better future. Sometimes crisis provides us with some opportunities,’ H.E. Ayse Sinirlioglu held.

According to Turkish Embassy data, the Romania’s overall exports increased by around 25 per cent last year, its exports to Turkey saw an increase of 70 per cent. And, like a final comment regarding the close relations between the two countries, H.E. the Ambassador of Turkey alluded to football. ‘I am pleased to note the reappointment of Gheorghe Hagi as manager of Galatasaray late last year. The <> is once again at the helm of the most important football teams in Turkey. I should admit that football could be more effective instrument than classic diplomacy for furthering friendship and solidarity between peoples,’ H.E. also stressed.

At the end of the speech, Ayse Sinirlioglu, the Ambas­sador of Turkey, emphasised: “(…) When the inevitable comes for me to move on to another assignment, I will keep this award as a reminder of my good memories of Romania and the Romanian people.’

Next, it was the bankers’ turn to be in the limelight during the awards ceremony.

After long deliberations together with prominent representatives of the National Bank of Romania, the Bank of the Year award went to Raiffeisen Bank. The bank had also received the Investor of the Year award for the process of privatisation from Nine O’Clock back in 2001. Raiffeisen Bank CEO Steven van Groningen, an old and trusty friend of the publication and of its management, noted right from the outset in his speech that, in the previous two years, being a banker at a time when the global economic context was extremely difficult hadn’t exactly been a pleasure but he added that, in spite of all that, he and his team had managed to keep the balance right between the bank and its customers. ‘This award is thanks to the decisions made in the past. (…) To me, for the more than 15 years since I have been here, Nine O’Clock has always been a factor of stability in a troubled environment, always reflecting developments in Romania with objectiveness,’ said Steven van Groningen.

Having been President and CEO of one of Romania’s most important banks – BRD Groupe Societe-Generale – for a year already, Guy Poupet was chosen as the Banker of the Year for its efforts aimed at consolidating BRD’s role as main actor of the Romanian bank market, and for strengthening the bank’s image in a year of financial turmoil.

‘I want to thank Nine O’Clock for this high recognition after a rather difficult 2010 for all of us, when BRD tried to keep the attractiveness of its products high while creating new ones in order to stay close to its customers. We intend to keep the same pace in 2011,’ Guy Poupet said.

In addition to an investment made in the Timisoara detergent plant almost 16 years ago, the USD 100 M invested last year in a personal care product factory in Urlati, equipped with state-of-the-art global technologies made American giant Procter&Gamble (P&G) the Foreign Investor of 2010 in Nine O’Clock’s vision.

‘It gives us great honour to receive this award from a number of reasons. First of all, because we are a reliable investor, present on the Romanian market for almost 20 years, just like Nine O’Clock. Secondly, because this award, granted in a context dominated by diplomatic figures, also comes as a confirmation of the fact that we have fulfilled that informal role of ambassadors of Romania through the investments that we have made here and through re-affirming our investing commitments,’ said Ramona Brad, External Relations Associate Director P&G, a company with more than 1,000 employees in Romania.

The Law Firm of the Year 2010 award was granted to Nestor Nestor Diculescu Kingston Petersen (NNDKP) for daring development strategies and project competitiveness in 2010.

‘We are thrilled to receive this award which is recognition of the activity of NNDKP on the Romanian corporate market. I would like to thank on behalf of my team especially the Nine O’Clock jury for its pertinent assessment of the law firms’ market and for the recognition of our activity last year. Not least, my thanks go to our clients and especially to those who have been with us during the 20 years of existence of our law firm.

I could say 2010 was a good year for NNDKP, but that goes without saying, given the award that we have just received. It was a year when we had worked on very challenging and interesting projects that helped us consolidate our team and develop the services we provide. Apart from celebrating 20 years of existence, in 2010 we also entered into a strategic partnership with the Transilvania Insolvency House, seeking to existence in the bankruptcy and insolvency field. At the same time, in 2010 we also opened territorial offices in Craiova. I can assure you that we will continue to be just as … innovative and client-oriented as we have always been and help the market in 2011,’ said Adina Chilim-Dumitriu, managing partner and representative of the law firm.

The Special Award was given to journalist Alessandra Stoicescu, President of the ‘Mereu Aproape’ Foundation for the successful campaign ‘Water flows, Romania stands’, which helped assist thousands of flood victims.

‘When I heard there was going to be no Politician of the Year award this year and that this award had been included, I understood that both 2010 and 2011 could be our years, the years of people uninvolved with politics. Each and every one of us can be the people of these years, years marked by crisis, years when we believe in nothing no more, except our power. I want to thank all my colleagues from Antena 3 TV and from Observator (news bulletin) whom I successfully mobilised to raise over EUR 1 M and build 75 houses from scratch. I also want to thank those of you present here tonight, because I am pretty certain among you there are people who mad donations for those people. I want to thank Gabriela Stefan, Alexa and Lacramioara, girls who built 75 houses, and, again, Camelia Voiculescu and Mihai Gadea for putting their trust in me as someone who could drive a change for the better,’ said Alessandra Stoicescu.

Another Special Award was conferred for the policy of incentives for the SMEs and pioneering in the implementation of the top performance technology for on-line transactions and services to Robert Rekkers, President and CEO of Banca Transilvania. “Mr. Rekkers is a very good friend of Nine O’Clock with whom we have always had the best possible communication ever since he came in Romania with ABN Amro” underlined Radu Bogdan. ‘It is my greatest honour to accept this award for innovation and pioneering. 2010 was a difficult year for all of us and I am glad it is over. We have prepared interesting projects for 2011. I want us to invest major amounts in technology, IT, improve customer service, become an even stronger and more attractive bank. My congratulations go towards Radu Bogdan and Nine O’Clock. Enduring through 20 years in Romania is a great achievement,’ Mr. Rekkers noted.

The Insurance Company of the Year 2010 was chosen Astra Asigurari, for the quality of its implemented strategies, business dynamism and diversification of distribution channels.

‘We are honoured and thrilled to be winning this award. It is twice good news to Astra Asigurari. On the one hand, we have managed to take over leadership and we hope to consolidate and keep this position this year, too, although the market has not posted the best of results in the last two years. I hope we will use fewer words such as in the future and manage to achieve growth in this sector, too. The other piece of good news is that Astra Asigurari will be 20 years old this year. Such performance would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for the sustained effort of my team whom I must thank. I am very pleased to be a member of this team. Hope to see you again for the same event next year, and to still be winners. I thank the Nine O’Clock team for this award and I will also salute Mr. Frinzi who has contributed to our company Astra Asigurari’s development’ Gianina Ungureanu Iovanel, company communication manager, said.

In the end, the Romanian Businessman of the Year 2010 award went to Sebastian Ghita, President of Asesoft Grup, for the enthusiastic and strategically well-designed manner of always looking for new challenges in business – from IT, distribution, services and real estate to winemaking with a touch of tourism and, more recently, mass-media.


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