Newsmakers: People in the News

Airline Slump Boosts Mercury's Service

After the Sept. 11 economic slump that sent the airline industry into a tailspin, Los Angeles-based Mercury Air Group actually saw demand grow in one of its divisions.

Robert Schlax, who recently was named vice president of finance, says Mercury is doing a brisk business in private airline services, as executives shun commercial jets for the short lines and hassle-free experience of chartered flights. In Bedford, Mass., for example, corporate travel at Mercury's fixed-based operations, or private airline service, increased 35 percent.

"People don't want to fly, don't want to go through the airports, and so they use our facility," Schlax said. "It saves on their time."

Which isn't to say that Mercury emerged unscathed from the effects of Sept. 11. Revenues from company's freight business fell dramatically, says Schlax, as a result of a soft cargo market. But demand for shipping is starting to rebound, and the recent creation of a shipping subsidiary, Air Mercury, could help win new contracts.

Still, freight-forwarding services provide only a small part of Mercury's revenues. The bulk, more than 60 percent, comes from its aviation petroleum division, whose revenues slipped about 12 percent in the quarter ended Sep. 30 compared with the previous year. Schlax, however, isn't overly concerned about the decline because the segment's margins are healthy, and oil prices, which have suffered of late, are expected to increase.

Schlax should know something about the oil industry. He's a 24-year veteran of Unocal Corp., where he was involved in the refining and marketing business before joining Mercury. In his new position, Schlax will be responsible for the day-to-day financial operations of Mercury and its subsidiaries.

Schlax holds a bachelor's in accounting and an MBA from Pepperdine University. He lives in Laguna Niguel with his wife and three children.

Jeremiah Marquez

People in the News


Jennifer Dickens has been appointed director of marketing for Gumbiner Savett Finkel Fingleson & Rose Inc., a public accountant and consulting firm in Santa Monica. Prior to joining the firm, Dickens served as vice president of sales at Merrill Corp. and Southern California sales and marketing manager at Tax Toolbox.

Advertising and P.R

Inter/Media has named Rich Contino director of client services and Leili Nassiri associate planning director. Contino, who oversaw $10 million in monthly client billing at Mercury Media before joining the firm, will supervise new accounts and develop new business. Nassiri, who previously worked at Initiative Media, will handle Inter/Media Advertising accounts for the U.S. Army, Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet and Aquarium of the Pacific.

Cerrell Associates, a public affairs and political consulting firm, has named Matt Link a vice president and member of the firm's management team. Link will concentrate on the firm's local government, corporate and campaign-related clients. Before joining Cerrell, Link was vice president at Rogers & Associates and handled communications for the company's largest private client, American Honda Motor Co.

Allison & Partners, a public relations and marketing firm, has promoted Scott Pansky to general manager in Los Angeles. Pansky, who has done promotional work for NBC, Columbia Pictures and MGM, joined Allison & Partners last year after the company acquired the West Coast office of Connors Communications, where he was a vice president.

Doug Spilatro has joined Hollywood Digital, where he will work on spots for McDonald's and Sprint Yellow Pages. Spilatro has previously worked for Sight Effects, and has created effects on promotions for United Airlines, Taco Bell and Mountain Dew.


HNTB Corp. has appointed Edward McSpedon as executive vice president in its Los Angeles Office. McSpedon will be responsible for national and global development initiatives and the development of new services at the national consulting firm.

Banking & Finance

Gary Kowalski has been promoted to managing director of the Los Angeles offices of financial consulting firm Parson Group LLC. He previously was business development leader in the company's New York office.

Robert Shustak has been named chief operating officer and a principal at Metropolitan West Financial, a holding company with nearly $55 billion in assets under management. Prior to joining the company, he was president of Quantitative Financial Strategies Inc., an asset management company in Stamford, Conn.


Diane Brigham has joined the Ryman-Carroll Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and supporting young artists, as executive director. In her new position, Brigham will oversee the Ryman Program for Young Artists, which focuses on teaching classical drawing and painting skills to high school students. Most recently, Brigham was head of education for the J. Paul Getty Museum. She also was assistant curator of education at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Galef Institute has named Anthony W. Jackson vice president of strategic development and communications. In his position, Jackson will direct the institute's efforts to build partnerships with government agencies, foundations and corporations to support the Different Ways of Knowing program. Jackson joins Galef from the Disney Learning Partnership, Disney's philanthropic initiative, where he directed the $6 million program to help elementary schools improve student learning.


Vinton Studios has tapped John R.A. Benson to manage its computer animation department. Before joining Vinton, Benson was head of the commercial division's computer animation department at Industrial Light and Magic.

Jim Henson Co. has promoted Paul Eskenazi to chief financial officer. Eskenazi will oversee all financial operations, supervise the company's human resources department with Executive Vice President Peter Schube, and work closely with company parent EM.TV & Merchandising AG. He will also continue to handle his former worldwide corporate development activities.

Jeff Lutzky has been named vice president of affiliates sales strategy for Fox Cable Networks Group in Los Angeles. He will oversee all budgeting, forecasting and billing issues related to the cable networks' channels. Lutzky has been with Fox since 1994, most recently as director of affiliate sales strategy.

L.E.K Consulting has appointed Kevin Mayer global head of media and entertainment practices. Prior to joining the firm, Mayer was chief executive of Clear Channel Interactive.

Health Care

Mary Rainwater was been promoted to program officer at the California Endowment, the state's largest health foundation. She will focus on the endowment's statewide grant-making activities in the area of mental health. She will also help implement the endowment's Los Angeles Access plan, which was designed to increase health insurance coverage of low-income families. She previously was a mental health consultant for the group. Prior to joining the endowment, Rainwater served as the executive director of the Los Angeles Free Clinic for 11 years. The endowment also has appointed Carolina Reyes vice president of evaluation and planning. Reyes will continue to serve on the faculty at the UCLA School of Medicine.


Matthew J. Saly has joined Ford & Harrison LLP as an associate. Saly will counsel employers on California labor issues. Prior to joining Ford & Harrison, he was an associate at Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

New Media

Natalie Papagni has been tapped as chief financial officer and director of operations for MatchNet PLC, an online dating service company. Prior to joining the company, Papagni was a senior controller for Andersen Consulting LLP and served as a senior management consultant for a CPA firm in Los Angeles.

Real Estate

PCS Development has promoted Elizabeth Goldman to executive vice president of company affiliate PCS Property Management. Goldman's responsibilities include establishing rental rates, determining annual budgets and overseeing day-to-day operations of PCS Development's 50 apartment communities. Goldman previously served as director of property management for the company.

Kevin R. McKenzie has joined the Los Angeles office of Buchanan Street partners as a vice president. McKenzie's responsibilities include building the firm's principal investing and advisory business. Prior to joining Buchanan Street, he managed private equity investments for AEW Capital Management. Buchanan has also named Douglas Thompson as vice president of the firm's Newport Beach office and Kristin Olson as vice president of portfolio management for the Buchanan Funds and Buchanan Urban Investors.


Guitar Center has promoted Jay Wanamaker to senior vice president of merchandising. A 22-year music veteran, Wanamaker joined the company two years ago as vice president of merchandising after leaving his position as vice president/general manager at the Yamaha pro audio and combo division. Guitar Center has also promoted Mark Nelson to vice president of sales. Nelson has been with the company for 13 years, and previously served as director of sales.

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