Friends of Hungary Founder Baron William de Gelsey Passes Away At 100

Baron William de Gelsey (Báró Gelsey Vilmos) has passed away at the age of 100. One of the founders of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, Baron Gelsey lived a life of achievement, faith, and community service. Among his many undertakings as an economist and banker, he was the chairman of Gedeon Richter’s board of directors, and became a permanent honorary chairman of the company in 2017.

William de Gelsey was born in 1921 in Vienna to Marguerite and Henry de Gelsey. He was a descendent of the Gutmann family, who, after their involvement in spurring Hungary’s transport business during the industrial period, received the status of nobility and the name Gelsey in 1869, as well as the title of barony in 1904.

From then on, the Gelsey family turned the village of Belistye (Belišće) into a thriving, significant settlement. Gelsey said that when he visited it in 2018 he was treated like a saint.

After completing his master’s degree in environmental sciences at the famous Trinity College in Cambridge, he finished an internship at Imperial Chemical Industries. Initially working as a chemist, he later decided to shift his career path into the field of investment banking.

Gelsey lived in England for most of his life. From 1942 he worked for Imperial Chemical Industries, and in 1960 he became the managing director of Hill Samuel & Co., then vice president of the International Consortium of Orion Royal Bank.

He moved to Vienna in 1988, where he worked as a consultant for Creditanstalt (now UniCredit).

Gelsey participated in the privatization of Gedeon Richter, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Company from 1995 and then Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1999 to 2016.

He later became the Chief Adviser of UniCredit Bank AG in London, and then the Chief Adviser of the Board of Directors of UniCredit Bank Hungary co. ltd.

He became the permanent honorary chairman of the board of directors at Gedeon Richter Plc. on January 1, 2017, and then the Senior Adviser to the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Hungary.

In 2005, Pope John Paul II. bestowed Gelsey with the rank of Knight Commander in the Order of St. Gregory the Great as recognition of all the work he did for the Hungarian Catholic Church.

Gelsey was also the recipient of the Award for the Hungarian Economy in 2009.

In 2011, Gelsey was involved in the establishment of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today, and was an active and involved member of the Friends of Hungary Community.

In 2014, the Vilmos Gelsey Pedagogical Institute of the Diocese of Szeged-Csanád created the Báró Gelsey Vilmos (Baron Vilmos Gelsey) award. The award is given to teachers and financial workers of educational institutions who show outstanding work in the field of Christian education.

Baron William de Gelsey remained active throughout his entire life. Even he considered himself young at 95, regularly travelling between London and Budapest.

He chose not to get married or start a family in order to have more time for his undertakings.

Respected and remembered for his faith, community service, and inspiring approach to life, Baron William de Gelsey will be greatly missed.

Tamás Vaski, 2021.02.26

Featured photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI