Turns out, O’Dowd is high on that list.
“Kevin is a critical player in New Jersey because of his relationship with George,” one insider said of O’Dowd, the senior executive vice president with Cooper University Health Care. “It may well be derivative of George, but it also is derivative of his last boss (Christie). ... He has a certain group of people that he counts on. And Kevin, still, no doubt is on that list.”
One insider said O’Dowd speaks to Christie several times a day, despite having left the administration more than a year ago. And consider this: The former chief of staff was on standby last fall when Hurricane Joaquin was bearing down on the East Coast, according to another source, even though it never materialized.
“All hands on deck,” the source said. “Even the former members of the administration were going to be enlisted because they had the experience of Sandy and whatever was before that.”
But enough about his ties to Christie. There’s a reason O’Dowd is considered a valuable asset to Camden-based Cooper University Health Care, whose board of trustees chairman is the South Jersey power broker himself.
“I think he is growing into the John Sheridan role,” one observer said of Cooper’s late CEO. “And I think O’Dowd has the stability and the intellect to actually take George Norcross’ vision and power, and make it happen. Not only because of intellect, but he also is often the adult in the room.”
But that was eight years ago, and insiders say Strangfeld has long since made his mark as the company’s chairman and CEO.
“The state would not be where it is, and Newark would not be where it is, without Prudential,” one source said. “So when you look at the effect of a corporate presence, there’s probably none bigger than Prudential — you’ve got to believe it wouldn’t be that way if the CEO didn’t want it to be that way.
“It doesn’t happen by happenstance. It’s got to be something he says is important for the company’s success and his own success.”
Strangfeld’s pride and commitment to Newark were on display last fall when he opened Prudential’s new office tower on Broad Street. The 20-story building was designed to be a “catalyst for the community,” he said, and that was just as important as any other purpose it might serve for the 140-year-old insurance giant.
That’s not to mention the company’s involvement with the revival of Military Park and its continued commitment to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Sources also gave credit to Strangfeld’s team, including the likes of Lata Reddy, Sharon Taylor and Richard Hummers.
“He knows how to select talent. That’s why he’s the CEO of Prudential. That’s his No. 1 strength — talent selection. And if you’re the CEO of a major corporation, that’s key.”
Does the road to Drumthwacket run through Jersey City?
It’s still too soon to say — even if it feels like the 2017 gubernatorial race has been underway for more than a year. But one thing is clear: Fulop is making sure everyone knows his name well beyond the borders of Hudson County.
“He’s handled it well,” one veteran political operative said. “He has very quickly established himself as a statewide player.”
The Jersey City mayor is also digging in for a fight. Insiders point to the recent legislative debate over expanding casino gaming to North Jersey, in which critics accused Fulop of trying force a stalemate between Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, his Hudson County ally, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney — his likely rival for the Democratic nomination.
It may not have gone Prieto’s way in the end, but it was a sign that Fulop is looking to flex his political muscles. All while Jersey City continues to make its mark on other key business issues: The pace of development there doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and the city’s first-in-the-state paid sick leave ordinance has given way to similar measures in other Garden State municipalities.
And the Hudson waterfront continues to grow and remind us all why it came to be known as Wall Street West. Last summer, JPMorgan Chase announced it will relocate more than 2,000 jobs from Manhattan to Jersey City, bringing its total headcount on the Gold Coast to about 7,000.
For Fulop, it’s all part of a narrative that continues to build.
Insiders have always marveled at how Coscia keeps a low profile while playing such important roles in New Jersey: high-stakes dealmaker, partner in a powerful law firm, chairman of Amtrak.
Of course, it’s even more astounding after the news last fall that the federal government would fund half the cost of the new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, while joining New Jersey and New York state officials in a new corporation to oversee the project.
For Coscia, it was the breakthrough he had been searching for with Amtrak.
“I think Tony has a lot more swagger going now than he has even in the past, because these projects are at the front burner now,” one business leader said, while still acknowledging “he plays very quietly.”
Sure, the Gateway project could take two decades to reach full completion. But there’s no understating how it will impact economic development in the state.
“Coscia is going to be on this list forever,” said another source. “The Amtrak thing is just key.”
But anyone who knows Coscia that’s just one of the things on his plate.
He and his firm, Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf, are in the middle of many of the state’s most high-profile deals. For instance, the agreement between Hackensack University Health Network and Seton Hall University to build a medical school on the former Roche campus in Nutley.
Yes, Coscia was involved in that.
“He is unbelievable,” said one longtime colleague. “He’s always been unbelievable.
“He is what we all would like to grow up to be.”
Several top business leaders praised Marino for his boldness and his vision with the OMNIA health plans — a move aimed at tackling New Jersey’s soaring health care costs — but they couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at how the plan was rolled out.
“Bob has tremendous courage,” one source said of Marino, the CEO of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “He’s a thoughtful guy (and) analytical, and you can tell that his blind spot is recognizing the local passions that can be stirred up.
“We can fault how the play was carried out, but it was the right play.”
The tiered network plan, introduced last September, divided the state’s hospitals into two in-network groups, leaving many of the state’s Catholic and urban hospitals in the second tier. The result has been a barrage of public outcry, litigation and political scrutiny, with Marino taking much of the brunt.
It’s why one insider went so far as to put Horizon in the class of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.
“Clearly what Marino just did with OMNIA is a disruption,” the person said.
The battle over OMNIA is far from over, even if the plan took effect at the start of this year. But it’s already clear the Newark-based insurer is attempting to change the game in health care.
“That’s not an easy battle to take on,” said one Newark insider. “I’m sure Bob has had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about that litigation, but I think that’s one of the issues he has shown courage on. And I think he’s a real leader on that, to try to rein in costs.”
NJBIZ Power 100: No. 10 to No. 6