Ralph Izzo (NR)
Well, once again, a major storm devastated New Jersey, and PSE&G was spared horrid headlines and screaming customers, when its chief competitor, JCP&L, was not. PSEG is expanding beyond New Jersey's borders with the Long Island Power Authority contract. Izzo went through “hand-to-hand combat,” to push through the Rutgers merger, which at one point, “was headed for a Chernobyl,” a source says. “The way it turned out was peace on earth.”
Lopa P. Kolluri (NR)
The deputy chief of staff for U.S. Housing and Urban Development reportedly will play a key role in the disbursement of federal housing dollars in New Jersey, post-Sandy. "As a top adviser to the (HUD) secretary, she has the ability to help him understand the issues and political nuances of New Jersey," says an insider. Kolluri also has a deep bipartisan network of policy leaders, and past experience under the Statehouse dome.
Revel creditors (NR)
"Revel is, by any metric, a disappointment," says an observer; another calls it "a nightmare." But it must succeed, if for no other reason than Christie staked his reputation on it. Kevin DeSanctis was universally panned for how he's managed his casino, so everyone's waiting for the creditors to step in. "It's gonna work," another source insists. "Someone will run that casino ... they're just going to pack up (DeSanctis') office one day."
Raphael Ghermezian (NR)
He takes the place of brother Nader on the day-to-day negotiations between Triple Five and the state. At press time, it was looking like there might be reason for optimism on American Dream, which was fast becoming a nightmare. While Triple Five is hardly hurrying the negotiations along — even in a best-case scenario, little can be completed before the 2014 Super Bowl — it's the only developer with the chops to see a project like this to completion, and it knows the state knows that, too.
David Cote (41)
His executive mettle has never been in doubt — look at how successfully Honeywell competes for big contracts and, in New Jersey, big incentives — but he is an increasing and potent force in Washington, too, as both sides of the aisle turned to Cote in angling to get a deal done on the fiscal cliff. His relationship with President Obama means he can be influential with Democrats — the president named him to the deficit-cutting commission in 2010 — yet Republicans seek his counsel when negotiating with the other party.
Robert Barchi (NR)
Its new president "will have the most to say" about the direction of Rutgers, a place "fraught with political pitfalls," as one source puts it. Barchi has won plenty of praise from the executive set for his decisiveness and promised emphasis on partnerships with business; he's only been on the job a few months, but there have been plenty of big steps taken already. He took care of the "redhaired bastard child" that was the medical school problem, a source says, then got the Scarlet Knights prepared to play Big Ten ball. The football team was "looking for a dry place in a storm" as the Big East crumbled, and joining the prestigious Big Ten is bigger than any booster could have hoped. Now, he'll have to convince thousands of alumni that it's a new day as Rutgers rides the momentum of its expansion, its Big Ten inclusion and the higher ed bond that should help modernize the campuses.
Marc Ferzan (NR)
"Absolutely the guy that's going to be in the front section of everyone's Rolodex," a source says of Ferzan, who will be coordinating all recovery efforts as New Jersey seeks federal money and begins the slow process of rebuilding itself. Christie has promised Ferzan will have direct access to the governor in the cabinet-level post. Sandy, the source says, will bring more than $30 billion in financial aid to the state; towns, cities and schools will come running to Ferzan for aid. And it's the Shore that will be banging loudest on his door: "The (false) perception now is that Atlantic City is closed, that the Boardwalk washed away," another source says. "We're starting to get a sense of what it would look like if there were no tourism industry in New Jersey." It'll be up to Ferzan to make sure that doesn't happen.
Jon F. Hanson (6)
Just about every source we spoke to puts Hanson in their top 10. Leave aside the fact that he founded a hugely influential real estate firm in Hampshire, at which a source says Hanson "was always an innovator ... the Steve Jobs of the real estate industry." Christie "never would have got there if Jon wasn't his finance chair," a well-placed source says. Hanson will again be the finance chair for the governor as he begins his re-election campaign, and he's also been charged with key areas upon which Christie has hung serious political capital — the Meadowlands and Atlantic City. As of this writing, the Jets and Giants were said to be nearing a deal with Triple Five over completing the American Dream project, and Revel's opening and the coming Margaritaville are his doing. "He is literally the guy who's been doing all the negotiations," another influential source says. "He's a huge player."
George E. Norcross III (3)
"He's described as (Vladimir) Putin of southern New Jersey, but he's much more like Daddy Warbucks," a source says. Love him, as few do; hate him, as others do; fear him, as many do; Norcross commands plenty of respect for his ability to get things done for South Jersey and in higher education. Christie "aligned the stars" for Rutgers, as another source puts it, but Norcross lined up the players and got them to make it happen. "The guy understands power," that source says, though "how he uses it has changed over time." He's able to "use his influence in the universe to help Rowan and Camden." Still, he didn't get his ruthless reputation at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box: if his opponents "can't get out of the way, they'll be taken out of the way," an insider says.