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Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

Power Elite: Who’s Got the Juice Now in the Valley

Bert Boeckmann Owner-President Galpin Motors It’s nearly impossible to drive very far on a San Fernando Valley street or highway without seeing a “Galpin Motors” license plate or new car tag sticker. Why? Because Bert Boeckmann, Galpin’s chief executive officer, has managed to remain Ford Motor Co.’s top retailer for more than a decade, and that means he sells more cars for the company than any other Ford dealer. Boeckmann is the recipient of the Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiatives for public service and has been named Time Magazine’s National Quality Dealer of the Year. Through his company, which employs more than 800 people, Boeckmann, along with wife Jane, contributes endless time and funding for local, national and international causes. Rick Caruso President Caruso Affiliated Holdings Want to make sure your retail project gets approved? Invoke the name of Rick Caruso. An exaggeration perhaps, but the name Caruso holds the kind of sway that many in the development community envy. More than a roof to shelter stores, Caruso’s retail projects have provided a kind of Main Street for affluent suburbs that have grown up without a town center. Modeled after quaint streets and villages found in countries around the world, projects like the Commons at Calabasas and Promenade at Westlake Village allow residents to congregate, sip a latte and mingle, whether or not they want to shop. There are meandering pathways with elaborate landscaping (for the Calabasas center, Caruso brought in nearly 1,000 50-foot trees), benches, fountains and sculptures. On weekends, there is often entertainment. “Our tagline is, ‘We don’t build retail centers, we build the center of town,'” Caruso has said. The orientation has not only helped Caruso to attract some of the best retailers, it has also helped gain community and government approval for the centers, so much so that when other retail developers have approached city planning officers for approvals, they often use drawings that closely resemble Caruso’s projects. Richard Close Attorney Gilchrist & Rutter Since 1976, Richard Close has been president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association – the largest homeowners group in Southern California with roughly 3,000 members. He was there with pen in hand alongside outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to co-sign the two ballot measures calling for and finally adopting a new city charter. But Close is perhaps becoming best known for his role as president of Valley VOTE since its formation in 1996. That’s the group pushing for Valley secession. And there is little doubt – he insists – that once the voters approve or reject the idea of a new Valley city, he will slip quietly from the scene. Speaking of the secession movement, the Boston native put it best himself: “I don’t play golf. This is my golf and tennis. There’s nothing I would rather be doing.” Martha Diaz-Aszkenazy Co-owner Pueblo Contracting Services Inc. As co-owner of Pueblo Contracting Services, Martha Diaz-Aszkenazy has worked to strike a balance between social and civic responsibility and the drive to see her company, which she co-founded with husband Severyn in 1984, flourish and prosper. And karma may be at work here, for her company is clearly prospering. Pueblo focuses on historic rehabilitation, including the renovation of the historic Angel’s Flight railway and the remodeling of Bullock’s Wilshire into the Southwestern University law library. The company has also completed several housing developments for seniors and other low-income groups, and is preparing now for the grand opening of the $2.7 million Library Plaza in San Fernando. Dan Emmett President Douglas, Emmett & Co. Over the past several years, Douglas, Emmett & Co. has acquired three of the four trophy properties that frame the intersection of Sepulveda and Ventura boulevards: McNeil Plaza, the Glendale Federal Bank Building and the Sherman Oaks Galleria. The company has also acquired the block that runs east along the north side of Ventura Boulevard to Columbus Street, and four high-rise properties in Encino. In all, nearly 3 million square feet in what is arguably the heart of the San Fernando Valley. But the soft-spoken, unassuming man at the center of those transactions hardly fits the image of a hard-driving real estate mogul. Indeed, what most strikes those who meet Dan Emmett is that he appears downright shy. Emmett avoids the spotlight, politely declining interviews with the press. His free time is spent climbing mountains (he’s said to have tackled Kilimanjaro regularly), running Olympic-level track and raising his four kids with the same principles of humility and fair play he exercises day to day in spite of his position. “Dan has a business acumen that you would never see when you’re talking to him, but his track record speaks for itself,” says a colleague. David Fleming Of Counsel Latham & Watkins David Fleming describes himself as a man who arrived in the San Fernando Valley of the 1950s to find a place very much like the Iowa community he had left behind. Today, the lawyer with the firm of Latham & Watkins has a different view of his Valley of villages from an office on the 25th floor of a Universal City high-rise. His firm belief that this community of 1.6 million people can return to something close to what he discovered more than 40 years ago has made him one of the highest-profile supporters of Valley secession anywhere. His list of philanthropic and civic activities seems almost endless. He is president of the Los Angeles Board of Fire Commissioners and former vice chairman of the California Transportation Commission. Fleming chairs the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation and, for the last 12 years, the Board of the Valley Presbyterian Hospital. He and his wife Jean have contributed more than $3 million to various charities and he has been a close advisor to Mayor Richard Riordan. Still, it apparently is difficult to separate Fleming from one of the most controversial subjects of the day, secession. After all, he is quick to point out, “This is the only major city with a mountain range running through it. It really is the continental divide of Los Angeles.” Rickey Gelb General Partner Gelb Enterprises Rickey Gelb’s business is real estate development and property management. At least it has been ever since 1985, but in many ways it seems almost like a sideline to his real activities. Many in the Valley business community know him best for the many civic, governmental and business organizations he has leadership roles in. Those organizations include everything from the Encino Chamber of Commerce (and that’s just one Valley chamber of commerce he’s involved in) to the Encino/Tarzana Regional Medical Center Foundation, from the Los Angeles Charter Review Committee to the L.A. Valley College Alumni Association, from VICA to Tree People to numerous City of Hope committees. Besides being named member of the year or receiving commendations from any number of organizations, Gelb is also the 2000 Fernando Award recipient. Jay M. Gellert President & CEO Health Net Inc. He could well be called Mr. Turnaround, but Jay M. Gellert prefers his given name, thank you. As president and CEO of Health Net, Gellert took a floundering health care organization that suffered consecutive annual losses of $165.2 million in 1998 and $187.1 million in 1997 to one that showed a $142.4 million profit in 1999 and a $163 million profit in 2000. Despite the sharp turnaround, Gellert declined a bonus last year, just as he had the year before, saying he still has “much work to do.” The company’s turnaround was no small feat, but Gellert credits his management team and right-hand man, Gary Velasquez, who helped convince seven competitors to standardize their claims processes into a single Web-based system to sharply reduce costs. Moreover, Gellert moved to develop a partnership with Boston-based NavidMedix that would allow health care agencies to check patient eligibility online, thus cutting faulty claims by 75 percent. Bonny Herman President & CEO Valley Industry and Commerce Association Companies may come and go, personalities arrive on the scene and depart, business cycles evolve. Meanwhile, Bonny Herman has been in a leadership position at VICA for more than a decade and a half. The last 16 years have been busy for one of the most important business organizations around as the San Fernando Valley itself evolves, every year, into an independent dynamic economic engine. Although very familiar to most anybody in the business community, Herman has kept a relatively low public profile over the years, relative to the scope of VICA’s activities. “She does all her work behind the scenes,” said VICA Chairwoman Cathy Maguire. Maguire said Herman’s most significant contribution “has been in developing leadership in the Valley over the years,” first as president of the Valley Leadership Institute until 1996 and continuing in her role as VICA president. “She is always bringing along leaders: people like me, for instance.” Michael Klausman President CBS Studio Center “I tried to pretend I lived here,” said Michael Klausman, describing his approach to appeasing the neighbors and merchants who live and do business in the area as he prepared for the 1995 expansion of the CBS Studio Center, where he still serves as president. Eventually, CBS contributed $40,000 for roadwork, traffic signal upgrades and parking permits to mitigate concerns stemming from the expansion. And, since his arrival at CBS in 1991, Klausman has offered use of the facility and financing for programs at CSUN, allowed UCLA students to film on site at no charge, and imposed a “cultural arts fee” to construction companies working at the studio, money since used to build a media center for the local Carpenter Avenue School and a theater for Ulysses S. Grant High School in North Hollywood. Mel Kohn Managing Partner Kirsch, Kohn & Bridge Mel Kohn is an accountant; he doesn’t mind crunching numbers. In fact, he loves it. That passion has led him to many opportunities where he can help local businesses other than his own. As managing partner and founder of the Encino accounting firm Kirsch, Kohn & Bridge LLP since 1960, Kohn has become known as much for his passion for helping local business people as for his accounting skills. So it may have come as little surprise to those who know him that the California Chamber of Commerce named Kohn and five others its 2001 California Small Business Advocates of the Year. His work with the Valley Industry and Commerce Association contributed to the California state legislature’s passage of the Truth in Bonding Act – a measure aimed at ensuring that bond money is used for the projects for which it had originally been intended. Kohn is also chairman of the city’s Business Tax Advisory Committee, aimed at reforming the convoluted business tax system and allowing local businesses the opportunity to reduce their tax burdens. Thomas Lee Chairman and CEO, Retired Newhall Land and Farming Co. When it comes to developing master planned communities, there are few to match Thomas L. Lee and his Newhall Land and Farming Co. After joining the company in 1970, Lee helped expand the company into one of the premier developers in the state. While the community of Valencia, founded in 1965, is the company’s flagship project, Lee led the company as it initiated what may be the biggest project ever – Newhall Ranch, on the banks of the Santa Clara River. As its visionary for more than three decades, Lee helped expand Newhall Land efforts in other real estate and agricultural operations. Lee was named president and chief operating officer in 1985, CEO in 1987 and eventually chairman in 1989. He retired this past March. Tony Lucente President Studio City Residents Association Tackling tough issues is what keeps Tony Lucente going. Whether it is establishing a “Graffiti Patrol” or fighting to keep adult entertainment out of a Studio City neighborhood, Lucente is the “go-to” guy when it comes to community or business problems. In his 10 years with the Studio City Residents Association, the group has grown by 90 percent, now with more than 2,100 members. “There is a strong sense of identity in Studio City that makes people care about this community,” Lucente said. Among his recent accomplishments are the establishment of the Studio City Farmers Market and a cooperative partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department. As a businessman, Lucente has directed Nissan North America’s corporate communications department for the past 10 years. Cathy Maguire Public Affairs Manager The Gas Company She may live in the Santa Clarita Valley, but don’t let that fool you in to thinking that Cathy Maguire doesn’t have her feet firmly planted in the San Fernando Valley. She is the chairwoman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. As head of public affairs for The Gas Co., she helped launch the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, which she now serves as vice chair. Maguire serves on the boards of the Northridge Hospital Foundation and New Directions for Youth, a Van Nuys organization working to steer at-risk youth in the right direction. What does she see as her top priority for the Valley? “My vision for the Valley is for all of the local organizations that have done so much for local businesses and the economy to continue to join forces and strengthen ourselves as one entity.” Alfred E. Mann Chairman & CEO MiniMed Inc. Risk is nothing new to Alfred E. Mann. Having founded, financed and successfully sold five technology companies – so far – Mann just launched what he has called “my baby,” MiniMed Inc., off on its own as well. Mann has successfully created Spectrolab, an electrophysics company; Heliotek, semiconductors; and Pacesetter, Siemens Infusion Systems, MiniMed and Advanced Bionics, all medical device manufacturing firms. Mann began his career in 1956 when he started Spectrolab to supply the U.S. Army with optical filters for its anti-tank missile firing system. He later established Heliotek with the capital he accumulated by selling Spectrolab. By 1969, Mann had sold Heliotek, turning to the biomedical field to establish Pacesetter, which in 1972 introduced the first rechargeable pacemaker for heart patients. Upon selling Pacesetter to Siemens AG, Mann established the non-profit Alfred E. Mann Foundation in Valencia, which developed the Clarion, a hearing device implanted near the ear, giving many previously deaf patients a chance to hear for the first time. In 1985, Mann established MiniMed to develop and market an insulin pump for diabetes patients. Louise Marquez Manager & Marketing Director Panorama Mall Most malls hold fashion shows to promote the latest trends. The last time Louise Marquez organized a fashion show, it was part of a clothing drive for welfare-to-work recipients. Such is the signature brand of retailing Marquez has developed in the nearly 10 years since she joined the Macerich Co.-owned Panorama Mall, initially as marketing manager. Visit the mall each month, and you’ll likely run into a job or health fair, seminar on immigration rules and procedures, income tax tutorial or arts and crafts session for the area’s school kids. The way Marquez sees it, the shopping center is as much a part of the community as the schools or fire department. And in Panorama City, a predominantly blue-collar neighborhood with a heavily Latino population, including many new immigrants, better to skip the glam and go straight to the basic necessities of day-to-day life. “It’s the ability to tie the community together,” Marquez says. “If we, as an entity in the business arena, can be utilized to bring the customers and the government and schools and children together, I really believe we can make a difference. It’s the united effort of all of us working together that brings prosperity to a community.” The social conscience Marquez has given the mall has paid off on the business side as well. Panorama Mall enjoys sales per square foot of $382, substantially higher than the national average, and an occupancy rate of more than 95 percent. Ed Masry Attorney Masry & Vititoe Nearly two decades ago, Westlake Village attorney Ed Masry got interested in a little environmental contamination case. He couldn’t possibly have known that eventually his firm, along with two others, would end up winning a $330 million settlement against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. over contaminated ground water. Nor could he have known that the case would be made into a major motion picture that drew heavily on the work of his now famous staffer, Erin Brockovich. And Masry is reportedly continuing to stir up controversy in his most recent role as a Thousand Oaks city councilman. He said he ran for public office to fight big development projects because he wants his seven grandchildren to “have open space” and “be able to look at horses and see animals, instead of nothing but asphalt.” Bud Ovrom City Manager City of Burbank For the last 16 years, Robert “Bud” Ovrom has been Burbank city manager. He arrived just as the aerospace industry was taking a nose dive, resulting in the closure of Lockheed Martin Corp., the sudden availability of roughly 5 million square feet of vacant industrial space and the loss of about 20,000 jobs. Fortunately, this all coincided with a simultaneous burst of growth in the Media Center – a challenge for Ovrom and his staff as well, because the key was to keep growth on track without encroachment into residential neighborhoods. Today, a parcel of land vacant for a decade is now home to the Media City Center Mall, the adjacent downtown area is bustling, and a chunk of the former Lockheed property is set for more than 1.3 million square feet of development. Brad Rosenheim Principal Rosenheim & Associates If you’re trying to move a sensitive project in Warner Center through the city’s approval process, Brad Rosenheim is the guy to call. When a lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles Unified School District against the city of Los Angeles charging that Warner Center development had adversely affected air and noise levels at local schools effectively bringing building to a standstill, it was Rosenheim who negotiated a compromise that allowed development to continue. When Lennar Partners sought to redevelop 1.3 million square feet of office space at the former Prudential regional headquarters, it was Rosenheim who persuaded the community to support the project and steered it through the city’s approval process. And when business and developers complained that they were unfairly hampered by a specific plan that imposed onerous fees on the community, it was Rosenheim that spearheaded the effort to change the plan. A revised specific plan is expected to be approved by the city shortly. Rosenheim, also executive director of the Warner Center Association, a group of local businesses and developers, came to L.A. in 1979 from Deerfield, Ill. and worked in local government and at an engineering firm doing land use entitlements before setting up his practice in 1995. He is also a founding member and chairman of the West Valley Boys & Girls Club, chairman of the board of trustees for West Hills Hospital & Medical Center and a board member of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. Robert L. Scott Director Civic Center Group Through his Civic Center Group, Bob Scott provides consulting, research and planning services primarily to non-profit organizations. Also, for the last 20 years he has been the principal attorney with the civil litigation firm of Scott and Associates. Many in the San Fernando Valley have known Scott to wear any number of hats over the years, but most recently he has been involved in developing information and ways to get information for the business community. In May, for instance, he took to the stage during the Economic Alliance’s Info Summit 2001 to explain how to research biomed companies in the Valley, a project he has prepared for the Alliance. He also has compiled a compendium on “Rightsizing Local and Regional Government.” Scott was the founding chairman and current vice chairman of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. He is a past president and current member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission and a past president of the United Chambers of Commerce. Jerry Snyder Partner J.H. Snyder Development Co. “I look like Cary Grant, is that OK?” quips Jerry Snyder of J.H. Snyder Co. when asked to submit a photo to the Business Journal. And that’s pretty much vintage Snyder, a New York native and Bel Air resident with a tireless, albeit take-no-prisoners charm. But as a developer he could very well be the next messiah to those pushing for development of the long-troubled multi-million-dollar commercial and residential project called the NoHo Commons in North Hollywood. After two attempts by another developer to get the project off the ground, Snyder was able to secure financing and is nearing receipt of a final stamp of approval from the city of Los Angeles. His company, over the years, has built more than 1,200 homes in the Valley area and recently brought the Warner Marketplace and Reseda Plaza to fruition. Dale Surowitz Chief Executive Officer Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center Like most hospital administrators over the years, Dale Surowitz has seen the parameters of his career change right along with the challenges that face the health care industry. As chief executive officer of the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center for the last four years, Surowitz has balanced a number of responsibilities as he has managed virtually every aspect of the center’s two facilities. Before taking over those responsibilities, he spent five years as president and CEO of the North Hollywood Medical Center and was an administrator at three other acute care facilities before that. Surowitz has been named Outstanding Business person of the Year by the Encino Chamber of Commerce and is a four-time winner of Tenet Healthcare’s Circle of Excellence Award. Ross Thomas Partner Delphi Business Properties Have you even thought about industrial property in the San Fernando Valley in the last few years? Then you no doubt are familiar with Ross Thomas. It’s virtually impossible to rent or buy that particular kind of real estate without doing business with Delphi Business Properties, the company he is a partner in. What’s more, he doesn’t mind investing in what he markets. Thomas has been investing in San Fernando Valley property himself ever since he began as a broker, with a 6,000-square-foot facility in North Hollywood 22 years ago. His personal holdings now exceed 650,000 square feet. “It’s a natural adjunct to the business,” Thomas said. He also has countless partnerships with those he does business with. “I like it when a user is a partner,” he said, “because they have a vested interest in being a good tenant.” Robert Voit Chairman & CEO The Voit Cos. They told Robert Voit it was sheer folly to build a commercial center in Woodland Hills. The year was 1974. Hardly any business ventured west of Chalk Hill, an imaginary line somewhere between Winnetka and DeSoto avenues. The oil embargo – and the recession it brought – was only just beginning to lift. And Voit was not only proposing an office building; he was ready to drop a bundle on a whopping 110 acres in what seemed like a remote area that stretched from DeSoto to Canoga avenues and from Oxnard Street to Burbank Boulevard. (He purchased another 24 acres, which became the Warner Center Towers, in 1980.) What seemed in 1974 like foolishness is today Warner Center, the premier commercial hub of the San Fernando Valley and corporate and regional headquarters to such companies as Health Net, Litton Industries Inc. and 21st Century Insurance Group. Voit, who lived in the Valley for 20 years (he has since moved to Orange County), says the dynamics that led him to develop the West Valley are the same today as they were nearly three decades ago. “People have always come to the Valley looking for a better life,” he says, “and that’s exactly what’s happening today. “Other people, be they Hispanic or Asian, are coming here (now) for the same darn reasons.” Tyree Wieder President L.A. Valley College L.A. Valley College – under the leadership of Tyree Wieder – has seen a rebirth since she became president in 1995. Enrollment has increased, class offerings have expanded and the college’s relationship with the private sector has blossomed. Wieder has reached out to private contributors for equipment and donations and, under her direction, the college has forged business partnerships that led to, among other positive attributes, collaborations that have trained and placed nearly 1,000 current and former welfare recipients and unemployed workers into jobs. Most remain on the job today, not always an easy task to accomplish. Wieder said of that particular project, “We just start with where they’re at, work with them and try to move them up.”

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