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7 CFOs honored as tops in their field at NJBIZ event

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Ann Wendlocher of Bonnie Brae, winner in the nonprofit category, is flanked by event sponsors, from left, Frank Karlinski from Robert Half, Lester Pataki of Chase Bank and Tony Panico from Withum.
Ann Wendlocher of Bonnie Brae, winner in the nonprofit category, is flanked by event sponsors, from left, Frank Karlinski from Robert Half, Lester Pataki of Chase Bank and Tony Panico from Withum. - ()

Being a CFO is more than just numbers on paper — it’s being a valued part of strategic planning and development of the organization, according to Tony Panico, partner at the tax and audit firm WithumSmith+Brown PC.

Withum was the presenting sponsor at NJBIZ’s 2018 CFO of the Year Awards, held Tuesday at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset and attended by over 300 people.

The event was created 10 years ago to honor financial executives throughout the state who contribute to New Jersey’s economic progress and stability.

Awards were given to CFOs representing the categories of best growth manager; health care organization; nonprofit organization; private company with revenues up to $50 million; private company with revenues over $50 million; public company; and rising star. The seven categories yielded 33 finalists.

Huntington Learning Centers CFO James Emmerson won the award for private company with revenues up to $50 million.

“I’m a little stunned I won because you never expect to win,” he said. “It’s just a lot of hard work and dedication.”

Huntington Learning Centers is an Oradell-based tutoring and educational services company that has been franchised to about 350 locations throughout the U.S. Emmerson said the company’s plan is to double that number.

“Our company has a great cause. It’s helping all the kids of today grow up and be smarter. It’s a great opportunity to work for a company that provides that kind of service. It changes people’s lives,” he said.

Salil Ravindran, CFO of Piscataway-based IT service management company Marlabs Inc., won the award for private company with revenues over $50 million. Ravindran did not attend Tuesday’s event; accepting for him Bhaskar Cherukumilli, the company’s finance controller.

“He did a great job turning around the company that we work for,” said Cherukumilli. “He absolutely earned it with some strategic initiatives and personally making some very good moves. He brought the EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) up the last couple of years by more than double.”

The following is the complete list of winners:

  • Best Growth Manager: Brian Lenz, executive vice president, CFO, biopharmaceutical company ADMA Biologics Inc., Ramsey
  • Health Care Organization: Anthony Orlando, senior vice president, CFO, Englewood Health, Englewood
  • Nonprofit Organization: Ann Wendlocher, CFO, Bonnie Brae, a 100-year-old private school and residential program in Liberty Corner
  • Private Company with Revenues Over $50 million: Salil Ravindran, CFO, IT service management company Marlabs Inc., Piscataway
  • Private Company with Revenues Up to $50 million: James Emmerson, CFO, tutoring and educational company Huntington Learning Center, Oradell
  • Public Company: Daniel Cregg, executive vice president and CFO, power company PSEG, Newark
  • Rising Star: Blazej Kesy, director of strategic initiatives at material handling supplier Headzup Inc., Seacaucus

Winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges: Wayne Hasenbalg, president and CEO, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority; Larry Samilow, chief customer officer, Verve Consulting; and Michael Sepanic, associate chancellor for external relations, Rutgers University-Camden.

The next NJBIZ event is New Jersey's Fast 50, honoring the fastest growing companies in the state, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset.

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Gabrielle Saulsbery

Gabrielle Saulsbery

Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.

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