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The Power 100 (No. 20 - 11)

By , - Last modified: February 6, 2017 at 6:56 AM
20. Josh Harris, David Blitzer (40, 40)
20. Josh Harris, David Blitzer (40, 40)
The New Jersey Devils owners are quiet, for sure. Like the other owners of professional sports teams in the state, they prefer to be behind the scenes. But don’t be confused; they are active. Their organization plays a big role in Newark. “And they want to be more active.” It starts with their One Jersey initiative, where they are actively collaborating with some of the state’s top businesses to improve the overall landscape of New Jersey. There will be, of course, a strong emphasis in the areas of the state where their franchises are located. “The Mulberry Commons project will help the Prudential Center, but they want to do more to help the city. And they are,” said one insider. And this is while North Jerseyans forget they have a huge impact down South, too. “The new training facility (in Camden for the Philadelphia 76ers) is not just a premier facility, but it will serve as an economic driver for the city. It’s a model other sports teams should follow.”
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The New Jersey Devils owners are quiet, for sure. Like the other owners of professional sports teams in the state, they prefer to be behind the scenes. But don’t be confused; they are active. Their organization plays a big role in Newark. “And they want to be more active.” It starts with their One Jersey initiative, where they are actively collaborating with some of the state’s top businesses to improve the overall landscape of New Jersey. There will be, of course, a strong emphasis in the areas of the state where their franchises are located. “The Mulberry Commons project will help the Prudential Center, but they want to do more to help the city. And they are,” said one insider. And this is while North Jerseyans forget they have a huge impact down South, too. “The new training facility (in Camden for the Philadelphia 76ers) is not just a premier facility, but it will serve as an economic driver for the city. It’s a model other sports teams should follow.” Some call Gill, an Essex County freeholder, an up-and-comer in the state. Others say he’s been a power player for some time — something up-and-comers aspire to be. “He’s a big-time adviser and fundraiser for huge people, including Booker and (Murphy),” one insider said. “It’s hard to be more influential than that, especially this year. They are the hottest politicians in the state, and both have huge respect for Brendan.” Said another: “People want to get in front of him because they want to get in front of the candidate.” And then there’s this: “He’s a guy who is going to be on your list, and high on your list, for many years to come. He’s that well thought of and is starting to make all the right moves to expand his influence.” “It’s the beauty of politics,” one insider said. “There’s nothing more stale than a day-old politician — but there’s nothing that (says he can’t) make a comeback, either.” Codey, the former beloved governor and state Senate president, was one of the first to jump on the Murphy bandwagon. That figures to pay off should Murphy win the gubernatorial election this fall. Is this spot too much, too soon? After all, Murphy has not even won the Democratic nomination. “That’s true,” one insider said. “But the presumption is that he will. And because of it, people who had shunned Dick Codey the past few years are now fighting to get into his good graces. That’s power.” His connections are the easy way to start his bio, as both Christie and George Norcross value his insights and leadership. But, an insider said, one shouldn’t be quick to say his power stems only from his relationships. “This is an incredibly smart and talented individual,” one insider said. “He’s not powerful because he’s connected to Chris and George, he’s connected to Chris and George because he’s incredibly talented.” O’Dowd, one insider said, is having a big impact at Cooper University Health Care, but his influence goes beyond that. “Kevin is not a health care leader; he’s a leader who just happens to be working in health care.” He just happens to have the ear and the respect of both Gov. Christie and George Norcross. It would be hard to be more connected than that. No doubt, all three hold important positions with the governor. Scrivo (chief counsel), Porrino (attorney general) and Palatucci (chief strategist) are all on the governor's speed dial. The question is, insiders say, how long they will want to be there. It's the last year of the administration and all need to be looking to their next job while holding down their powerful current posts. “Scrivo and Porrino are outstanding lawyers; they can stay the entire year and be fine,” one insider said. “Palatucci is an interesting case. He's tied as closely to (the governor) as anyone, making the uncertainty of the governor's next role his uncertainty. He's too smart and too good at what he does to not continue to have impact. Where, is the big question.” Many of the power players we talked to spent a lot of time talking about who they thought the next Assembly Speaker will be. The position is that important and that powerful. And it’s one Prieto will have for all of 2017. “He’s had wins and losses and hits and misses, for sure,” said one insider. “But he still has the job and will continue to have the job. And if the governor wants to get anything through the legislature to help his legacy — and trust me, he does — then he’s going to have to work with Vinny. That’s a sign of power.” Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey has no equal in the insurance marketplace. “It’s such a behemoth of a company; they employ so many people,” one insider said. “Even though the whole (OMNIA) controversy is quieting down, he’s still an influential guy.” And a smart one, said another. “What’s amazing is not their size, but their ability to be so nimble. To not only be able to adjust to the rapidly changing industry, but to be ahead of the changes. That’s vision and leadership.” Together? Call it a cop-out. Or call it recognition that the state has two premier health system executives — and that none of our insiders mentioned one without mentioning the other in the same breath. Garrett, the head of Hackensack Meridian Health, and Ostrowsky, the leader of RWJBarnabas Health, are leading the charge in the new and ever-changing world of health care. “They are acquiring and expanding and changing as quickly as the industry,” said one insider. “The state is lucky to have both of them. And while it’s hard to say which is more important or powerful, it’s clear that both are way ahead of any other system heads.” But who ranks higher? Perhaps we’ll sort that out on our Power 50 Health Care list for 2017. The leader in Newark assumes the unofficial title of the state’s top mayor, riding a wave of more development announcements. The unveiling of Mulberry Commons (“He deserves a lot of credit for forcing that to happen,” said one insider. “He got them to move on the property, let them know they could no longer just keep on holding it”) and the grand reopening of the Hahne Building are just the latest. And they follow the announcements of two new high-rise residential projects. Has he escaped the shadow of his predecessor, Cory Booker? Does he need to? “Cory was more style, he is more substance,” said a supporter. “Cory got the snow cleared off the roads, he didn’t,” said a detractor. Either way, this is clear: Baraka is making a huge name for himself. She’s the top woman on the list, and for good reason. The business community has had no bigger supporter the past seven years than Guadagno, who seemingly set a record for ribbon-cuttings in her role as lieutenant governor. How does that equate to power — especially in an administration where all power is in the hands of her boss? That will be determined in the coming months, as Guadagno attempts to ride her connections to the Republican gubernatorial nomination and then on to Drumthwacket. “We’ll see what she’s made up of,” said one insider. “And I think she’s made up of a lot. She’s got an uphill battle for sure, but don’t underestimate her.”

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