70. Finn Wentworth (66)
“Quiet and incredibly influential,” one insider said. “He brings gravitas to the table,” said another. Wentworth, the founder of Normandy Real Estate Partners, doesn’t just make the list for being such a gentleman in a rough-and-tumble sport. His firm is involved in projects up and down the East Coast (and still plenty of deals in New Jersey) and he is on the Atlantic City commission with his close friend, Jon Hanson. Insiders say anyone would be wise to work with him. “In the business climate, if Finn wants to do a deal with you, you want to listen to him.”
69. Robert Doherty (60)
He is the Jersey head of Bank of America, which does more business, dollar-for-dollar, than any other in the state. “People still need banks, still need money,” one insider said. And with banks providing so many other services to companies and business owners, Doherty is an easy pick.
68. Ronald Ladell (NR)
He was No. 3 on our last Power 50 Real Estate for a reason: He’s one of the state’s top players in the red-hot multifamily asset class. The AvalonBay executive also seems to be in the mix for just about every prime redevelopment site with a potential apartment component. And if he’s not putting himself in the running, other developers are asking if he’ll come on board, or are just seeking his input. He’s well-known on the speaking circuit — and known to take calls from many top leaders in the state for his input.
67. Ted Zangari (67)
A regular on these lists, the Sills Cummis & Gross lawyer continues to be influential because of his work in real estate and policy. “Ted has incredible relationships with a lot of legislators,” one insider said. Another is impressed by how Zangari finds so many different ways to have impact around the state. “Ted’s a very smart guy. He’s very influential in his law firm, but he takes it from a different view than Dunican does and Deutsch does.”
66. Susan Cole (79)
We would say the Montclair State president is quietly turning her school into an important player in the higher ed space in New Jersey, but if you’ve been on campus and seen all the construction, you know it was anything but quiet. That hasn’t kept insiders from speaking up about her: “Behind Rutgers — notwithstanding Seton Hall medical school — probably the next most impactful educational president in the state today,” one said. “When you talk about her, people respect her. She’s very talented.”
65. David Cote (63)
Some wish Honeywell was more active. “You never see them out there,” one insider said. But that was in relation to helping the state philanthropically — at least visibly. With Cote as CEO, Honeywell is out there plenty — what other company is involved in as many different types of products? And if you thought its upcoming move from Morris Township to Morris Plains was big, just imagine if it left the state.
64. Alex Gorsky (57)
For those who say J&J doesn’t do enough for New Jersey (and we heard the cry), others reminded us of this: “Their decision to stay in New Brunswick saved the city.” As head of the company, Gorsky has the same type of power today: “If J&J decides to do X, that’s it,” one insider said. “And if Alex Gorsky needs something, he could call anyone and get what he wants.”
63. Jennifer Velez (61)
She was No. 1 on our Power 50 Health Care last spring. And for good reason. As the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, she’s busy with the largest budget in the state government and oversight of more than 15,000 employees. “The most demanding job there is,” said one insider. Another hinted that Velez — in the role since 2007, predating Christie — may be getting close to leaving.
62. Omar Boraie (NR)
The Boraies, Omar and his son Wasseem, came up so frequently we wonder how we missed them in our Real Estate Power 50. But if you think they are an overnight sensation, you’d be mistaken. “(Omar) was a catalyst in the transformation of New Brunswick and a very important figure in New Jersey history,” one fan said. And they’ve spread their influence, with projects in Newark and Atlantic City, and they are looking in Jersey City. “Clearly, there’s going to be a change in focus in Atlantic City away from gaming, so their residential project is something that the city needs. They were there a few years ago, just showing that they are visionaries.”
61. A. Gabriel Esteban (NR)
The Seton Hall president joins our list thanks to his blockbuster deal for a medical school with Hackensack University Health Network. That came a little more than three years into Esteban’s tenure as president at one of New Jersey’s proudest universities, one where he’s spearheaded a move to raise the quality of the incoming classes — SAT scores are up roughly 80 points since his arrival — and increase building on campus while barely increasing the school’s debt. We’re eager to see what he does for an encore.
60. Nariman Farvardin (65)
You don’t need us to tell you how important STEM is to the future of the state’s economy, and we’re lucky to have Farvardin leading a school such as Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. “Stevens is doing a lot in Hoboken,” one insider said. “They are very ambitious.” No one works with business better. And being routinely named as one of the nation’s top universities for return on investment doesn’t hurt, either.
59. Paul Sarlo (NR)
The Senate budget chair “wants to be Senate president if Sweeney runs, and he’s the force that Sweeney’s got to deal with when he’s trying to build whatever he wants to do with his legislation,” one political insider told us. The Bergen County Democrat could be one of the driving forces behind expanding casino gaming to North Jersey, a move that would require a constitutional amendment via a voter referendum.
58. Greg Brown (NR)
The new head of the Rutgers Board of Governors earns a spot on the list — and some felt he should have been ahead of Barchi. Not that Barchi couldn’t be powerful if he wanted — most think he doesn’t, though he remains in good standing with Christie. Brown, however, is stepping into his role with vigor. “He is more of a bridge to the Statehouse than Dr. Barchi is, without question,” an insider said. “He’s already formed a strong relationship with the Senate president, who could be the next governor.”
57. Nancy Cantor (70)
Take a moment and try to find someone who isn’t a big fan of the chancellor of Rutgers-Newark. We’re still searching. “She stands up to the people in New Brunswick, which is very hard for the (provost) of Rutgers-Newark to do,” one said. “Nancy Cantor is a big deal,” another said. “She is influential. People have risen up and said, “Wow, she’s a comer.’ ” Is she the successor-in-waiting to Barchi? “I don’t think she came with a chess board in mind,” one answered — but she’s opening plenty of eyes in Newark in the meantime.
56. Joel Bloom (65)
We used to call NJIT the most unheralded school in the state, but it’s no longer flying under the radar — especially in the business community — thanks to Bloom. “He’s a pragmatist, and he understands business,” one fan said. “He understands where he can create productive relationships with the business community without begging for money.” The opening of the school’s New Jersey Innovation Institute and the arrangements the school has made with Newark companies such as Panasonic are examples of how Bloom gets the business-higher ed relationship.
55. Ali Houshmand (19)
Rowan is becoming one of the higher ed leaders in the state, not just South Jersey. Houshmand, its president, has a lot to do with that as he effectively has brought the school out of the Rutgers medical school merger better than ever. “He’s smart,” one insider said. “He’s trying to do the right thing.”
54. Gary Wingens (NR)
The head of the Roseland-based Lowenstein Sandler gets a push onto the list thanks to an unsolicited push from a competitor in an always tough field: “I think you’ve got another (law) firm in this state that has a great reputation — and that’s Lowenstein.”
53. Phil Murphy (NR)
There are plenty of reasons to put Phil Murphy on the list, including his likely standing behind Sweeney and Fulop as a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful. Some question if he can shake the image of being the next Jon Corzine, which is not necessarily a good comparison. Then again: “I think Murphy’s dangerous,” one insider said. “There’s a proven playbook in New Jersey that certain key organizations respond very well to ‘resources,’ and this is a gentleman that has lots of ‘resources.’ ” And while another pointed out that Corzine, for all his shortcomings, did win two of the biggest statewide elections, they said Murphy’s impact this year will be for some smaller offices. “Phil Murphy should really be on the list because he’s going to become such an active participant in giving money in the Assembly races.”
52. Jon Bramnick (NR)
Another person lining up for a run for governor, but the Republican leader in the Assembly has a narrower field of opponents. “He’s going to run for governor,” said just about everyone. Most think he has a strong shot to get the nomination, hedging that the election is still years away and anything can happen. That’s why this year will be about consolidating power. “I think Bramnick is a pretty street-smart, savvy guy, and can go across the aisle, cut ethical deals, the way Chris cut ethical deals at the beginning, and pick off disaffected Democrats,” one said.
51. Cory Booker/Bob Menendez (71)
We’ll have them share a spot again, with full acknowledgement that Menendez is truly the senior senator. “(Booker is a) big-time second fiddle to Bob Menendez,” one source said. Both, however, have made sure to maintain their Jersey focus in Washington. With the ever-growing chase for dollars, that can’t be overstated. They both are frequent visitors to the state. Just for kicks, we asked the big-picture question: “(Both) could run for governor and they’d be the immediate frontrunner,” a political junkie answered.
50. Carl Icahn/Glenn Straub (NR/NR)
We’re still waiting for an AC Devco-type leader for Atlantic City. Until then, we’ll say these two may be the most powerful people on the boardwalk. “The reality is, if the Taj (controlled by Icahn) turns off their lights and Revel (controlled by Straub) doesn’t reopen, you have half of the boardwalk literally dark,” said one. Everyone knows about Icahn; Straub is a bit of an unknown. His influence, however, is great. “Glenn Straub is on there,” said one, “not because Revel is so big, but whatever he does, people want to read about it. And if he does something cool, and it’s in A.C., he’s influential.”
49. Alfred Koeppe (36)
Underestimate Al Koeppe at your own peril. Especially in Newark. He may be (semi) retired and is no longer a CEO, but he’s still the chairman of the EDA and well-respected by all in business and government. “He has not succeeded by accident,” one insidier said. “Christie kept him on, even though he was a Corzine guy, and at the same time, he led the transition team for Ras Baraka. That says something about your stature.”
48. Ray Pocino (55)
Everyone knows the state needs to re-energize its manufacturing base — and rebuild its transportation infrastructure. Are there two better ways to energize our economy? It’s a good time to be in unions, and Pocino, the politically well-connected regional head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, is a key power player.
47. John Lloyd (73)
It’s hard to believe, but suddenly overlooked in the wake of the Hackensack-Seton Hall School of Medicine announcement is the Hackensack-Meridian hospital system merger. That combination worked because Lloyd, still a few years away from retirement, is the perfect partner for Hackensack’s Garrett, his longtime friend. Together, the two will lead what will become the biggest system in the state, both in revenue and reach. That’s no easy task. One insider, however, said Lloyd is a perfect leader in the ever-changing industry. “He’s a good man,” the source said. “He’s a look-’em-in-the-eye guy. He’s a bundle of energy, doesn’t mince words. He’s got a holistic view of the industry.” One worth taking about. “It’s a conversation that you enjoy having because it’s not just Meridian-focused,” the source continued. “He’s going to set the terrain for you and then indicate how he sees that.”
46. Brent Saunders (NR)
The acquisition of Allergen last November was just the latest and greatest for Actavis, which beat out Jersey’s Valeant for the company. “He keeps merging everything,” one insider said. And he’s doing so with some guidance. “Keep your eyes open for what he’s going to buy next,” said another. “He’s been very successful at what he’s done and I believe, if you look carefully, you’ll see Mr. Icahn is the guy that pushed him.” Saunders, however, isn’t all business. “Because of all of his business things, he should be recognized, but he has a position and relationship with the Christie folks because he’s a good fundraiser, too.”
45. Robert Hugin/Rich Bagger (NR/62)
One (Hugin) is the CEO of Celgene, who got plenty of praise. “He’s a superstar, on the board of Princeton, former Marine, relatively young guy,” one insider said. “He heads up one of the most significant pharmaceutical companies in the world. You see him on TV on a regular basis.” The other (Bagger) is a senior vice president, but may be better known since he is a former chief of staff of Christie. “Bagger’s great; he should be the governor,” said another. His ties to government remain: “I still think Rich has influence and can exercise influence if he wants,” an insider said.
44. Edward Deutsch (47)
He is the managing partner of the largest law firm in the state: McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, a firm he has helped greatly expand through acquisitions. Not that he planned it that way. Deutsch said growth was done one lawyer at a time, not with a grand plan. Don’t be fooled — he’s clearly about more than just building his firm: “He is one of the preeminent gray-haired, wiser guys in the legal industry,” one insider said. “He does get called by a lot of people to represent them in business settings.”
43. Stephen Vajtay (82)
He heads McCarter & English, another top firm in Newark and the state. “They are involved in a lot of big things and always do a good job,” one insider said. And their influence only figures to increase with the acquisition of David Sorin’s boutique firm in East Brunswick. Sorin will be a managing partner from that office, heading the firm’s venture capital and early stage and emerging companies practice.
42. Dale Florio (34)
We never want to say people got on the list by reputation alone, but when you’re Dale Florio, your reputation around the Statehouse is priceless. “Dale is Dale, sort of the Cadillac of Trenton,” said one source. “He’s the biggest and best lobbyist,” said another. His firm, Princeton Public Affairs Group, is acknowledged as being the best. It’s the reason another said: “Dale should always be on there; he’s a very good lobbyist, very influential.”
41. Patrick Dunican (37)
He heads Gibbons, one of the top-tier law firms not only in Newark, but in the state. And that’s the end game, said a fan. “He’s taken a Top 200 law firm and put them in the mix in Jersey,” they said. “They’re not thinking of Boston or L.A. or Hong Kong — they are Jersey and want to own Jersey. The firm has tentacles all over the place in the state. If anything, they are making a push to expand into South Jersey.” The firm maintains a nonpolitical role but has a roster of lawyers involved in the game, headed by Bill Palatucci.