#1 Jon Hanson The Hampshire Cos., Founder and Chairman
Try going somewhere in New Jersey without finding this man's fingerprints. From the Meadowlands to Atlantic City — and plenty of places in between — Hanson's reach is arguably as far as anyone's in real estate. While that's not exactly breaking news, the Hampshire founder showed once again this year why he has the magic touch.
It was none other than Hanson who helped engineer the deal that led to Rutgers University's sweeping expansion in New Brunswick, which broke ground in September. The project became reality once the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, with Hanson as its longtime consultant, agreed to sell Rutgers a coveted piece of its "Holy Hill" property in order to build its own new facilities.
And the year was filled with major milestones for another Hanson "side project" — the American Dream Meadowlands. While the Giants and Jets still hope to stop Triple Five in its tracks, the megamall developer now controls the former Xanadu site and has officially lined up more than $1 billion in public financing to resume construction. And it seems legitimately close to doing that by early next year, due in no small part to Hanson's behind-the-scenes work.
It doesn't hurt that Gov. Chris Christie, who counts Hanson as one of his closest advisers, just cruised to a second term, or that Hampshire's real estate empire continues to flourish.
"He's the one who can go into rooms that the governor can't go and have heart-to-heart discussions with people — it's hard to be more influential than that," said one insider.
Many in the industry still rely on the Morristown magnate for guidance.
"People come into his office like he's the Godfather or a rabbi," another source said, noting his political influence and real estate success.
"Nobody else in our industry can say that."
The Hampshire Cos.
Last Year's Rank: 4