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NJBIZ Power 100: 100-71

100. Donald Trump (NR)
100. Donald Trump (NR)
It’s a pretty impressive coup for NJBIZ to think the man running for leader of the free world is only good for the No. 100 spot on our list. Truth is, it’s impossible to truly rank Trump. But let’s be clear: He is a player here. And he already holds one of the most powerful jobs in the state — deciding who gets a membership at any of his three fabulous golf courses. “He gets to say, ‘OK, you can be a member,’” an insider said. “I mean, the membership committee is Donald.” And these memberships can bring big business. From what we hear, the clubhouses at these courses do as much business as any board room in the state. Of course, that’s just what we hear: Trump hasn’t said we can be a member yet.
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It’s a pretty impressive coup for NJBIZ to think the man running for leader of the free world is only good for the No. 100 spot on our list. Truth is, it’s impossible to truly rank Trump. But let’s be clear: He is a player here. And he already holds one of the most powerful jobs in the state — deciding who gets a membership at any of his three fabulous golf courses. “He gets to say, ‘OK, you can be a member,’” an insider said. “I mean, the membership committee is Donald.” And these memberships can bring big business. From what we hear, the clubhouses at these courses do as much business as any board room in the state. Of course, that’s just what we hear: Trump hasn’t said we can be a member yet. It’s hard to place the former governor, still beloved by the power players in both parties. We’ll put him at No. 99, acknowledging that he no longer is in the middle of the action. But he could be — and is when he wants. “There’s not a person in the state who wouldn’t take his call,” one power player said. “He’s kind of like that sage behind the curtain,” said another. “He’s got a power presence about him.” He’s the head of the premier arts facility in the state, NJPAC. And he works with one of the top boards of business leaders in the state. “John Schreiber, to me, would be someone who would be quite consequential,” one insider said. And not just for his work at NJPAC — make no mistake, he is expanding its offerings and reach like never before, bringing in events such as “America’s Got Talent.” One insider said he needed to do so in order to keep NJPAC relevant as it approaches its 20th anniversary. “His vision to change the event mix has helped keep NJPAC alive,” the source said. “Let’s face it — the donor base that helped get the center off the ground isn’t getting any younger. There’s clearly a transformation going on.” If the power list is about controlling money, as one insider surmised, then Chris Daggett needs to be on there for his philanthropic work. He runs the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, one of the state’s biggest nonprofits. Daggett, however, does more than that — and could be building a case for a bigger role. “I’ve noticed he’s out there a lot,” the person said. “He just joined the state chamber board. He did a very respectable job when he ran for governor as an independent candidate, and I could very well see Chris running again.” A Jersey native and Jersey guy, Banks continues to be a force in Jersey business as the head of U.S. Trust. Banks continues to be involved in numerous arts, charity and philanthropic groups on both sides of the Hudson while his bank quietly has impact, especially in the area of wealth management. As the head of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, Darcy represents a wide network of influential people. “He only speaks for 566 towns; I think that’s power,” one insider said. The job isn’t easy. “He’s got some challenging issues,” the source said, rattling off a resolution for COAH, dealings with municipal land use and liquor license reform. “I don’t see how you don’t have a guy like Darcy on your list, because towns are just still too important and he’s their representative — he’s their voice. People look to see what Mike is going to say about the year ahead for the league.” The head of BioNJ has long been the poster child for everything an industry head is supposed to be. “She is incredibly well-spoken,” one business guru said. “She is the leader of that industry. The industry is probably not the most prominent, and I think she’s probably taken care of that industry about as well as you can in the state that we’re in right now. And she deserves credit for it.” She gets plenty of it. Hart was recently named one of the world’s 100 most powerful people in biotechnology. She’s the outspoken, fast-charging head of The Marketplace, the parent company of Marketsmith, Brushfire and i.Predictus. The Cedar Knolls-based company, with revenues over $125 million in 2015, seems to be on every fastest-growing list you can find. A leader in data-driven marketing and creative advertising, it’s on the cusp of new technology and expects to announce more major clients soon. Smith is a leading advocate for women in business, animal welfare and giving back to New Jersey. The company’s work with an inner-city school in Newark could be — and should be — a model for corporate responsibility. “She has a passion for children — fighting poverty, hunger and ensuring children who are challenged by their situation receive the education they deserve,” one insider said. “(Her) commitment to causes is second only to her commitment to success. We need more leaders like her in the state.” He has a powerful name and a powerful position as chair of New Jersey State Investment Council, and one political pundit said not to rule Byrne out as a candidate for governor. “Like (Chris) Daggett, he could be a sleeper at the end if no consensus emerges,” the source said. “Or, if the establishment people in the party decide they need an honest broker.” Some suggest power is someone who uses their money for good — not necessarily to make more of it. That type of thinking pushed this Newark-focused developer/entrepreneur/innovator onto this list. “He’s on the real estate list and he should be, but he does so many other things that I think warrant him trying to be on this list,” said one admirer. “Forget about trying to revitalize Newark on his own. Forget about him setting up Profeta Farms out in Hunterdon County. The incubator stuff he’s doing alone in Newark is incredible.” He is compared with another member of the list, Marc Berson. “They both have this ability, because they’re incredibly wealthy, to do these things without a profit motive involved. And that allows them, unshackled, to do other things that most people just can’t.” His ties to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop cannot be overstated. Though he’s left the administration, his cellphone apparently never got the message. He’s still a top confidant to the mayor, a role that will grow when Steven Fulop begins his campaign for governor. His work as an independent marketing consultant — with some of the biggest clients in the state — must be noted, too. “He’s a player who has a lot of connections in a lot of circles,” one insider said. Don’t know the name? Then you’ve never tried to do business in Newark. The head of Edison Properties owns a lot of lots — and a lot of land — in Newark. “He owns a lot of the arena district,” one insider said. “He now owns the Ironbound building astride Route 21, that gigantic building, in addition to owning most of the plaza.” Gottesman, of course, has done little (except make gobs of money) for years. What’s changed? Two things. For one, casinos. He owns two parcels of land that could be used for a casino, though insiders feel he’s not interested — helping push those projects elsewhere. Others, however, feel he will do something. Finally. “Jerry is very, very interested now in seeing development happen (in Newark),” one insider said. “Jerry is at a point in life where he would like to see some things happen.” Others aren’t so sure. “Many have felt that way for years only to get burned in the end. I’ll believe it when I see it.” “Here’s the thing with Al,” one insider began. “Some people revere him as one of the great corporate leaders of the past generation — but others understand he’s still a force now.” As chairman of the Economic Development Authority, Koeppe has been in the middle of the group’s numerous awards and incentives — and in its leadership changes. As a board member at New Jersey Resources, he works closely with one of the state’s top CEOs, Larry Downes. Koeppe, the former head of both Bell Atlantic and PSE&G, still has great influence. “The state needs more Al Koeppes,” one insider said. Norcross and MacArthur have been busy in the U.S. House as first-term congressmen, working to keep one major type of job in the state. “The two of them are singlehandedly going to keep Fort Dix and Lakehurst and the other forts alive,” one insider said. “They were very successful in making sure that the base closure process will not include them, by virtue of some language they put (into a recent bill).” It’s unusual to go this deep on administrators at one school or one organization. Our insiders say Hobbs, the new athletic director at Rutgers, and Farmer, the former attorney general who serves as special counsel to the president, are worthy. “You have John Farmer and Pat Hobbs, in my view two of the best of their generation, teamed up together at Rutgers; that’s a pretty powerful presence,” one business leader said. “They’re friends, they have simpatico generally on issues, which doesn’t mean they don’t disagree on things, but that’s a powerful duo.” Farmer, another said, “has to be on the list because he has the ear of Barchi.” Hobbs, meanwhile, has been tasked with cleaning up the athletic department — and finding a way for it to work with corporate sponsors and turn a profit. One insider said they’ve got the right man for the job. “All things considered, I think the governor made a really good choice,” the source said. “He’s a guy who understands the state, he knows what he’s got to get done.” Hobbs, in fact, already has been floated as a possible successor to Barchi. “When you keep getting recruited to do important jobs, that just shows you the confidence the governor has.” After helping put Rowan University on the map as a South Jersey school known for engineering and overall excellence, Houshmand is taking the lead in his attempt to make college more affordable. The school now offers a program in which students can graduate in three years (assuming they are willing to go to school during the summer). And it recently introduced a plan in which students can complete three years at a local community college and then do a fourth on campus — graduating from the school for just $25,000 over the four years. While others talk about solving the student debt problem, Houshmand is actively finding creative solutions. The say money is power … if you use it. And Murphy is using it. He was active in the midterm state elections as he prepares for his own run for governor. One insider said he should not be taken lightly. “He has relationships everywhere at this point. The New Start New Jersey thing is very significant; he’s going to be heard from constantly in the next year and his influence is out there.” Ironically, pundits said his money also happens to be one of his biggest hurdles. Or the idea that he is the next Jon Corzine. “(He) is, to someone who is not suffering from amnesia, the second coming of Jon Corzine. Now, everyone you speak with says Phil Murphy is a pretty good guy — Jon Corzine was not a pretty good guy. But they are optically indistinguishable.” Atlantic City may be in dire straits, but if you’re looking for two of the most influential casino executives in town, our insiders say these two are at the top of the list. One source said Satz, the senior vice president for government affairs with Caesars, “is all over the place … (and) in every one of these conversations” with state officials on matters such as the proposed rescue package. Another said he “has got influence with the casino association because he has the ability to interface with both the people who run the casinos on in Atlantic City on a day-to-day basis as well as the people who control Caesars.” Of Ballance, president of the Borgata, the source noted that “he’s running the most successful casino in Atlantic City. And those two are the ones who dominate what the casino association does.” Years after leaving the Economic Development Authority, which she ran for two decades, she continues to be a force in development issues across the state. Franzini is an independent consultant behind the scenes in many deals — and out in front in others. She recently was part of a group issuing plans on how to rebuild Trenton. “She still knows everybody and everything that has do with development and government’s role in it,” one source said. “If you needed advice on anything, why wouldn’t you reach out? And she’s one of those people who gets their calls returned instantly.” He’s the head of Princeton University, the No. 1 college in the country — one that brings prestige (and plenty of dollars) to the state. The school is a giant in intellectual capital and helps drive the Central Jersey economy. How much so has yet to be determined. The school remains locked in a lengthy battle over its nonprofit status in a case that figures to set a precedent for other schools across the state. When it comes to Atlantic City and the Casino Reinvestment Development Association, “I think Domalewski is becoming more and more of a player,” one insider said. The former Chris Christie adviser, now a senior partner at Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, serves as special counsel to CRDA and is seen as a go-to guy for anyone doing work with the agency. “I think Craig is coming of age in Atlantic City.” “(She’s) a critical person,” one insider said of Verizon’s head of state government affairs in the tri-state area. “She’s in charge of all three (markets). There’s a labor strife right now. What happens if these guys go out on strike? We’re going to be hearing her name a lot more.” And maybe not just for business. “She has the unique resume of having worked for Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo of New York, Joe Biden and Hillary Rodham Clinton,” another insider said. “She could be a member of Hillary’s administration.” “I think it’s fair to say that, with the affordable housing situation, there will be a shakeout this fall,” one insider said. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Judge Wolfson could be a game-changer with a ruling. “Just realize, that if he decides X, that could spur on 10,000 units. If he decides Y, that could stop 10,000 units,” one insider said. Walsh, head of the Fair Share Housing Center, will then be the go-to guy for municipalities and developers. “All eyes will be watching, and I think Kevin Walsh will continue to play an active role. This affects not only residential housing and the affordability … but you’ve got the commercial piece, too. The governor wouldn’t let the commercial guys off the hook to keep the pressure on the residential guys, and he lifted the moratorium on the 2 percent affordable housing fee for development, which is really constraining a lot of projects. Two percent could be the difference between doing a project and not doing a project, so it’s not just residential development — it’s commercial as well. That all is part of this mix.” Ladell is ubiquitous in New Jersey’s real estate industry, and not just for the success of his company’s portfolio. The AvalonBay senior vice president is also a master networker and among the most well-connected developers in the state. “AvalonBay continues to really be one of the more, if not the most, aggressive players in the multifamily sector,” one source said, noting that Ladell has also taken on a “major role” at the Rutgers Center for Real Estate. The person added that “he’s a very compelling public speaker, and he always draws significant attendance when he speaks at seminars.” The biggest question surrounding Lesniak is whether he’ll throw his hat in the ring to be the next governor. But whether it’s yes or no, one insider said you can count on the state senator for being in the middle of things. The Union County Democrat almost single-handedly has kept the idea of sports betting in the courts. And he’s always ready to suggest legislation on any issue. “Forget if he’s running for governor,” the insider said. “His impact on business is clear. He is probably the top legislator from a business perspective.” His guiding hand at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter was noted by many. “They just have a perspective of ‘Let’s get this done and be beholden to New Jersey,’” explained one. The Morristown-based firm may not make as much noise as the firms in Newark, but even its competitors acknowledge they are their equal. “Everyone in the business community agrees he’s one of the most admired for his sound and sensible approach.” They head up four of the biggest and most important chambers in the state. Tom Bracken, at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, gets high marks for Forward NJ, the group that helped bring the Transportation Trust Fund issue to the forefront. And one source gives him extra points for his stance in recent weeks. “He has put out some pronouncements following the governor's State of the State that were, for a business leader … not entirely out on a limb, but moderately bold coming from a business leader. (He was) taking some subtle jabs at things that need to be done in the state, being respectful that the governor is running for a national office, but at the same time, dutifully doing whatever diplomatic prodding he could do to advance the business agenda, which in the instance of the gas tax also happens to be labor's agenda.” Michele Siekerka, meanwhile, has impressed all with her energy and work ethic since taking over at NJBIA. “Michele is amping up her game,” one admirer said. “She's working hard. She's been on the job now for a year and pushing hard.” Said another: “I think she's bringing them back nicely. She's everywhere.” Jim Kirkos is a force in North Jersey. “Jim Kirkos is a great advocate,” one insider said. “He really knows the down and dirty of his region. He knows every member. He's marketing himself well. If the casino thing happens, he's a player. Even if it doesn't, if you had a pick a chamber besides the state chamber, that's the chamber.” Carlos Medina, meanwhile, is working to elevate the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, easily the biggest in the state with more than 2,500 members. Its strength in numbers (Hispanic-owned businesses contribute more than $12 billion in revenue) should not be underestimated. He remains one of the most visible and most active lawyers in real estate, relocation and economic growth. “He’s a lawyer, but he’s not on here because he’s a lawyer,” one said. His influence is felt across the policy spectrum, and his firm, Sills Cummis & Gross, is active in so many of the deals that come from it. Many feel incentives have run their course in some of the state’s targeted areas. And many feel Zangari will be one of the people influencing what happens next. The new head of Hartz Mountain is making his mark on the company. As one source notes, “Manny (Stern) has gone to New York. The answer to your question, ‘Who gives Gus the directions?’ is that it’s not Manny — it’s Leonard. They’re a major landlord here in New Jersey. They’re the major landlord — certainly in North Jersey. You’ve got them and you’ve got Mack-Cali. You have to consider those two organizations.” The state’s third-largest university has a top-notch leader that has taken Montclair State to new heights. “It’s not even a diamond in the rough anymore,” one business leader said, pointing to her ability to grow using state tax incentives. One of the school’s latest projects, the $66 million Mimi and Edwin Feliciano School of Business, opened last fall to rave reviews. The same go to Cole. “She’s very well-respected,” said another insider. “I think she’s terrific.”

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