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NJBIZ Power 100: 40-11

4 for 40: Mara, Johnson, Harris, Blitzer
4 for 40: Mara, Johnson, Harris, Blitzer
In case you were wondering just how much of an economic hold a sports owner can have on an area, check out what’s going on in St. Louis and San Diego, which are about to lose their NFL franchises. Then ask Josh Harris and David Blitzer how much having the Nets here would help them fill the calendar at the Prudential Center. Say this: The four principal owners in the state prefer to stay out of the spotlight and always act with professionalism. John Mara and Woody Johnson opted against prolonging the battle over traffic and parking issues with the American Dream project. “Make no mistake — the two owners will continue to have a lot of say in what happens with the American Dream. Just right down to logistical things, like where you can park, where you can put utilities. They literally will have that project by the (expletive) in a number of ways through the years — some big, some small. … So I think they stay relevant just on that alone.” Harris and Blitzer want to do more in Newark (they hosted Ras Baraka’s post-election gathering), only to be held up by many of the same issues that have slowed Newark’s recovery for years. The same can’t be said in Camden, where Harris and Blitzer will move the front office and practice facilities of their other franchise, the NBA’s 76ers, in what is a big boost for the area’s tax rolls. Bringing the Super Bowl here may not have been the economic boon many wanted (blame the NFL and the lure of New York City for that), but it did show our two NFL owners are committed to bringing more NFL action to the area. And that’s far better than where fans in St. Louis and San Diego are at.
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In case you were wondering just how much of an economic hold a sports owner can have on an area, check out what’s going on in St. Louis and San Diego, which are about to lose their NFL franchises. Then ask Josh Harris and David Blitzer how much having the Nets here would help them fill the calendar at the Prudential Center. Say this: The four principal owners in the state prefer to stay out of the spotlight and always act with professionalism. John Mara and Woody Johnson opted against prolonging the battle over traffic and parking issues with the American Dream project. “Make no mistake — the two owners will continue to have a lot of say in what happens with the American Dream. Just right down to logistical things, like where you can park, where you can put utilities. They literally will have that project by the (expletive) in a number of ways through the years — some big, some small. … So I think they stay relevant just on that alone.” Harris and Blitzer want to do more in Newark (they hosted Ras Baraka’s post-election gathering), only to be held up by many of the same issues that have slowed Newark’s recovery for years. The same can’t be said in Camden, where Harris and Blitzer will move the front office and practice facilities of their other franchise, the NBA’s 76ers, in what is a big boost for the area’s tax rolls. Bringing the Super Bowl here may not have been the economic boon many wanted (blame the NFL and the lure of New York City for that), but it did show our two NFL owners are committed to bringing more NFL action to the area. And that’s far better than where fans in St. Louis and San Diego are at. “He is one of the most powerful people in the state, but you would never know it to talk to him,” one insider said. “He’s humble and low-key and likes it that way. He’s never been on your list — and he likes it that way.” His omission is corrected this year. He’s one of the state’s leading owners and developers, known most recently for the Garden State Park Racetrack redevelopment and his project in Somerville. According to another source, he is now one of the developers awaiting final approval to work on redeveloping the South Inlet section of Atlantic City. And if that’s not enough, he will be the chairman of Barnabas Health, when it completes its merger with Robert Wood Johnson. “I don’t know how he does it,” said one insider. “He works as hard as anyone I’ve ever met.” For a man who wears so many important hats, Berson does a good job of staying under the radar. The Fidelco Group chairman is one of the state’s more well-respected business leaders for both his temperament and his passion for Newark, whether it’s his role as a founding trustee of NJPAC or as board chairman for Barnabas Health. In fact, several sources pushed for him to keep the latter position once Barnabas completes its merger with Robert Wood Johnson Health System: “He’s committed to Newark, he’s committed to Rutgers. I think he provides the image that some people want.” Plenty of admirers for the CEO of Audible. “Of all the folks in the corporate world, he’s actually active,” one said. “This guy is actually moving the needle, starting with what he’s doing with the incubator, but also continuing to grow jobs. Audible is not slowing down. It’s an amazing company. They may be a part of Amazon, but they are definitely a standalone operation. And yet, Bezos loves him.” Others do, too. Here’s the pitch from another insider: “I would put him back in because they’re doing a major expansion as part of that Broad Street redevelopment. They’re acquiring an old church and renovating that to be a Google-style think tank for Audible. That’s going to be a pretty big project for Newark, when it tries to rebuild itself as a tech community.” The reviews are always glowing for CEO Bob (and for his brother, Peter, the president). “They built Goya into what it is today, a billion-dollar specialty food retailer, and made it look easy. It wasn’t,” one insider said. “This is a family company and that means there will be family issues. They overcame a lot of that. And then they essentially took a brand that started as a label serving Hispanic groups to one that is now mainstream.” Goya’s impact on New Jersey and New Jersey business can’t be minimized. The company chose to stay here and open its new headquarters in Jersey City last year, but it is hardly a tenant that stays on campus. “They are active in the city in a number of ways,” one insider said. A self-made Jersey guy with a great Jersey story. The first person in his high school to go to Princeton University, a Marine — and at the helm of one of the great biopharma companies in the world, though Celgene was far from that when he took over there. “This is a guy who I would put in charge of anything because I know he would make it successful,” one source said. “He’s incredibly smart, incredibly hard-working and has an incredible vision of the future. Now that’s power.” Others agreed. In fact, there’s only one thing our insiders couldn’t agree on: What’s the next chapter for Hugin? He was recently elevated to executive chairman at Celgene, with others assuming his CEO and president role. “I could see him being a senator,” one insider said. He is the North American head of Panasonic, but he scores well on the list for what he does in Newark as much as what he does in the company. Working with the city has been a priority since the electronics giant opened its new headquarters there in 2013. “He’s doing great things in Newark,” one insider said. “He’s there all the time. He’s a solid guy. In Newark, he is the incarnation of (former Prudential CEO) Art Ryan’s style of leadership and caring for the Newark community. And he’s also a pretty good businessman, too.” His efforts have helped Mayor Ras Baraka tremendously, the insider said. “He has given (Baraka) self-confidence because Joe Taylor takes him seriously and he’s not looking for anything.” Panasonic doesn’t have the history Prudential has in the city, but another source feels Taylor is doing his best to show it can be just as good a corporate partner. “I think they have come in like gangbusters and want to do well,” the source said. Her leadership at Campbell's — and its role in the revitalization of Camden — cannot be understated, one insider said. “Campbell Soup continues to be the one that has the most overall influence (in Camden). The others are transactional. I think Campbell's continues to be the stakeholder that, like Prudential in Newark and like Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, is the company that didn't abandon the city and continues to double down.” Another was just as praising of the company's CEO. “(She's) really powerful. I like her a lot.” The governor said his company was a top priority when he took office, so it was no surprise when Chris Christie took time off the campaign trail to speak at the grand opening of Honeywell’s new global headquarters in Morris Plains recently. As the head of a $40 billion company, Cote had other states lining up to be his new home. And, he readily admitted, he didn’t think the state would be able to meet his needs. Christie made sure that it did. And though he only moved a few miles, the fact he didn’t move out of the state was a big win. “We have to do whatever it takes to keep these type of companies,” one insider said. “We can’t lose these industry giants.” The thought was simple: “Brent should move up,” one insider said. Just like his company, Allergan, which just announced a merger with Pfizer. Saunders has been a shining star in the past year, leaving what many insiders thought was a comparable Jersey pharma company, Valeant, far behind. “There’s three reasons for that,” one insider explained. “The first reason is Brent Saunders is the CEO. This guy has thought through the downside risk. He basically didn’t eliminate all of the R&D. He acquired companies that had actual products. He didn’t go ahead and set up the pharmacy system that Valeant did.” The results were easy to see: “You had two stocks a year ago that seemed like they were essentially the same and were being treated on the same multiples. And then this year you have one guy who has crashed and burned, and you have the other guy who’s doing a merger and is going to have the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.” He's doing great things as a partner at Mercury, which has become as formidable a public affairs agency as any in the state, thanks to key hires from the political world. It's a world where DuHaime is still very much a player. His work on Gov. Christie's campaign for the White House gets him noticed and brings a top spot on this list. “DuHaime is a strategist who, in some ways, has taken lemons and turned them into lemonade the last couple months. He's a brilliant strategist,” one observer said. Many credit him for helping to keep Christie relevant in an overwhelmingly crowded field. That work may or may not end after the New Hampshire primary, but another insider feels DuHaime's power will continue either way. “Even if Christie were not running for president, he would still have that relationship and power,” the insider said. “(He has) turned that relationship and the skillset into paying off for business.” With the shakeup in Rutgers athletics dominating the headlines recently, one insider gave us this reminder about the university’s president: “If you look at the things that are happening at Rutgers that will impact the state and the business community systemically, it’s Barchi, because he continues to fine-tune and make this health sciences thing work. And that’s probably the most important thing that’s going to happen there. Football doesn’t really matter.” The source added that Barchi “has given Rutgers a different patina, and if the vogue thing in corporate America is to have relationships with universities, either for recruitment or partnerships, he has made Rutgers legitimate.” It’s unclear how long Barchi will remain at the helm — many feel he will not go longer than the five years he promised the governor — but he’ll be a force until the day he leaves. Tim Lizura has long been a rock star at the Economic Development Authority; no one in the state has anything but good things to say about his efforts in helping to oversee the state’s incentive programs as president. “Tim Lizura won’t be fully appreciated until he’s gone,” one insider said. “And I say that hoping he never leaves, because Tim is a rarity in the state: He has brains and he’s smart. He proves it’s possible for nice guys to finish first, even in Jersey.” Melissa Orsen, meanwhile, has been able to step right in as CEO and have impact, which isn’t a surprise to one insider who has followed her career in government. “Melissa gets doubly high ratings from the governor,” the source said. “You don’t put somebody in those spots unless she’s got the full faith and confidence of the governor behind her.” How big is the influence of the EDA in New Jersey? The results of every meeting are like a business box score and a must-read for leaders across the state. It’s hard to judge bankers on this list. But as is the case every year, our insiders said one clearly stands out from the rest: Cummings, the head of Investors Bank. “Kevin is always around,” one insider said. And that’s easier said than done. “Most bank CEOs only seem to want to talk to other bank CEOs,” another said. “Kevin is out and about meeting with clients. He’s out four or five nights a week at events — he feels it’s that important.” Of course, if you asked him, Cummings would say it’s important to recognize two of his biggest allies at the bank: Tim Touhey and Rich Spengler. He’s not just another name in a long line of major company leaders on the list. One admirer feels the head of New Jersey Resources has an edge on the rest of them. “He’s the best financial mind of the CEOs in the state,” the source said. “Nobody’s better than him. Lots of firms invest their money. Larry Downes puts in his intellectual capital.” Our insider apparently isn’t the only one who has noticed. Downes has been a regular on the governor’s trade missions. “Just look at who is going on the trips. That will tell you something.” Heavy praise followed the head of Summit Medical Group whenever it came up. “He’s a visionary,” said one insider. “He’s in charge of the biggest physician group in the state — that’s power,” another said. And then there was this: “(He’s) a disruptor. Forget OMNIA — the big disruptor is Jeff, who has radically changed the world the same way Vernon Hill changed banking and had this brilliant idea that banking is really retail; it’s a store. Jeff is doing that now in health care. He’s radically changing it.” Another summed it up this way: “(Summit Medical Group) is really kind of the gold standard.” One that is continually growing. The organization has more than 500 doctors in its group. Last year, Summit Medical Group opened a 100,000 square-foot facility in Florham Park. More facilities are on the way, including a new cancer facility it will open with partner MD Anderson. As head of the state’s Economic Development Authority, Brown was a Top 5 selection. Her move to Choose New Jersey causes her to drop — but insiders warned you’d be foolish to feel her power has dropped much. “She’s integral to business in New Jersey because she used to be at EDA,” one insider said. “She knows where all the levers for the EDA are and she’s trying to attract businesses to New Jersey or retain them. And she’s doing a really good job. She’s far more active.” Her ties to Trenton are a big part of that, said another: “She’s important because she, directly or indirectly, has the rapport with the governor. And she’s got access to any place in the government that she wants, plus what she’s doing in the private sector.” Another source said she’s taken Choose to another level. “She’s more visible — she’s a tougher leader,” the insider said. “She deals with the CEOs differently: She’s not courting the CEOs. She has a wide range of respect among the CEOs who did not know her before she took this job.” How’s this for an endorsement? “You want something done, you call LaRossa, he gets things done; that’s powerful,” said an insider of the PSE&G president. He’s part of “the two Ralphs” at the Newark-based utility. And while many point to him as being the boots on the ground — “he’s a nuts and bolts guy” — he’s clearly much more than that. “I would argue that LaRossa is more prominent. He’s the face,” one insider said. Around the state, too. As the new chair of Choose New Jersey, he’s part of the team bringing new energy there. He’s also on the board at NJPAC and Montclair State University. Like we said, a guy who gets things done. Looking for a leader? Gragnolati showed that ability in his first few months in charge. The Atlantic Health System CEO settled the long-running tax case Morristown Medical Center had with the town, helping to set a precedent for the rest of the state. “They needed somebody who had an elevated thought pattern to come in and settle it,” one insider said. “It would have been easy for him to say, ‘That’s a legal thing — have the lawyers do it.’ But he jumped in and he settled it. And he settled it in rapid time and in such a way where both parties had to give, but the ultimate outcome is they have a much healthier relationship between the hospital and the town.” What’s next? Some see a merger. “I believe he’ll be an acquirer, not an acquiree,” one source said. Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude. But so far, most like what they see. “I think Brian Gragnolati is a player,” said another. Some say he belongs (high) on the list because he oversees the state's top utility, PSEG. It is leading the charge to update the state's utility infrastructure — making sure we are ready if another superstorm were to hit. Others like to mention that he not only is usually the smartest guy in the room, he's often the most humble, too: A true gentleman and a visionary. Then there are the relationships he's made with all the important business and governmental leaders. “He's got relationships that go back to Tom Kean.” Some call being the lieutenant governor the toughest job in the state, as you get only what the governor gives you. Guadagno, however, has earned praise for using it for all it’s worth. No one in state government works with more business leaders — and quietly solves more business problems behind the scenes. “The LG has developed a nice name for herself now, being out there talking to all of the business leaders, giving out her cellphone for now six years at every event that she goes to,” one insider said. Another noted such notoriety alone makes her the frontrunner to earn the party’s nomination for governor in 2017, when she’ll run on a pro-business platform. Guadagno has set the bar high for the office. Though many may not realize it until she is gone. A year ago, our insiders said it would take another year to see if he could become the leader that Newark needs. The opinion now: He has. “He doesn’t aspire to anything but what he’s doing,” one said. “He’s at home — he wants to be the best mayor he can be. You have a little bit of the politics that you have to deal with outside of Newark for obvious reasons. But he’s growing up.” Another insider pointed to his handling of the school superintendent issue when Chris Cerf replaced Cami Anderson. Again, rave reviews: “I thought his accommodation with the governor on the schools was thoughtful. Both men needed to do that for different reasons: Ras because of his political base within the city, Christie because he couldn’t afford to have the city of Newark in flames.” Baraka’s efforts, one insider said, go beyond politics. “The mayor, I think, has pleasantly surprised a lot of members of the business community. … I think he gets it, that there’s a difference between running for office and governing. And I think a lot of people in the business community are very happy and pleased with the positive approach his administration has taken. And in some ways, he has been compared more favorably to the way that Cory Booker and his staff operated.” Baraka, another said, is just getting started: “He hasn’t yet flexed his muscles,” another insider said. “I think he will at some point.” People who think his stock rises and falls with Gov. Christie are mistaken, and certainly not students of history. The governor is not the first (Republican) politician he’s been close with — and he won’t be the last. “He’s incredible in three ways,” one insider said. “As a fundraiser, as a strategist and as an adviser. And don’t forget, he’s a pretty good lawyer, too.” A partner at Gibbons, Palatucci figures to be a regular on this list for years to come. Paladino has been one of the leaders in redeveloping New Brunswick and now the campus at Rutgers University, his alma mater. “When you think about what they’ve done, it’s just incredible,” one insider said of the Devco president. “When you look at 20 years ago and you look at it today and that new campus, that’s an incredible story.” One that draws raves and accolades from our insiders. “(He) is always powerful because he’s developing stuff all over the place,” said one. “You’ve got people that really are shining stars in their industries, which Chris is,” said another. “He runs a big outfit and he does it well. … The guy is playing in a niche, making a difference and he’s good at what he does.” The job description of chief counsel to the governor makes him one of the most powerful people in the state. The names of the people who filled it before Tom Scrivo (Chiesa, McKenna, O’Dowd and Porrino) make it one of the hardest to step into. Scrivo has done so masterfully, many said. “Scrivo has got a strong adrenaline rush right now, and he’s a bright guy and a good lawyer. So I think he shows real promise,” one insider said. “(He) is good. He does his homework and he listens.” Another feels he may have more influence than anyone in the administration, since so many spots are changing in Christie’s final years. “If there was one person in the governor’s office right now with the power vacuum that exists there, I think it’s Tom Scrivo.” Being the leader of the state’s biggest hospital system is reason enough to be (high) on this list. How he leads — with vision, purpose and authority — is another. “Barry is the quarterback of that team,” one admirer said, perhaps not knowing Ostrowsky, a huge Yankees fan, would prefer a baseball analogy. “There are no ifs, ands or buts. He’s the quarterback, so hard decisions — he’s going to make them.” The latest was on growing and making the biggest even bigger through the merger with Robert Wood Johnson, which should be finalized this year. “His business model is an expansive one.” Garrett soared to the top of our health care list last year with the announcements of a merger with Meridian Health and the deal to create a new medical school with Seton Hall. This year? Well, one admirer said he has bigger plans. “I think he’s on a trajectory to take over the world,” the person joked. Where would he find the time? “The medical school is a big deal,” said one observer. “(He’s) got to digest the merger,” said another. And yet, more action may be coming. “Both (Hackensack and Meridian) have a fairly clear pipeline of acquisitions, some announced, some unannounced. So they’re basically glomming onto their enterprises and then merging them together,” one insider offered. Another said more partnerships with organizations not necessarily known for health care are coming. That wouldn’t surprise another source: “I think the thing about Garrett is he gets the idea that health care is an enormously growing business, but you need market leverage in order to be able to do it. So he gets scale.” It may be the hardest job in state government, chief of staff to the governor, and one Egea may have been thrust into ahead of schedule. Our insiders, however, said she is more than up to the task. “She’s quietly more of a player than people give her credit for,” one said. “The calm in the middle of the storm.” With the governor trying to run for president while running the state — and at a time when his administration is reaching the lame-duck period of his term — that’s not easy. “She’s very quiet, but she’s holding down the fort while he’s gone. She can’t make any decisions, but if you need a person to reach, she’s returning phone calls. She’s committed. She’s not leaving until the end.” He’s been the chairman of the Port Authority for 18 months now — not that you’ve heard much about it. And that’s a good thing, one admirer said. “Have you seen any stories about the Port Authority getting themselves in trouble lately?” Degnan, another said, went right to work. “He went in there fully informed, and John is kind of like steel inside of a velvet glove. He’s pretty tough. I think he runs that outfit about as well as it’s been run.” Which is a good thing for the state. “(In) the next 20 years, they’re going to be fixing the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and they’re going to be putting in a new one. That’s going to create a lot of jobs,” another source said. “Now, he’s not going to be there for long. But he’s a major player and they’re going to have a hard time replacing him.” As the last legislative session was coming to a close, one political junkie had the Assembly Speaker “becoming a little bit more muscular” as he floated his own plan for a North Jersey casino referendum. Of course, what followed was a deal that left Prieto limping away after seemingly backing down to Stephen Sweeney. That’s one thing that made it tough for our sources to get a read on the Hudson County Democrat. One observer had this take: Yes, labor unions were “squarely behind Sweeney,” but privately bristled at the idea of building “slots in a box.” Those concerns were eased when it was announced that North Jersey casino operators would have to invest $1 billion (if the referendum passed), in what was touted as a concession to Prieto. According to our source, unions felt that “the real win is if we can sink our teeth into billion-dollar projects that will employ tens of thousands of laborers.” How it plays out remains to be seen.

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