Alan Rothenberg is a real Southland renaissance man. The founder and chief executive of 1st Century Bancshares Inc., the Century City-based holding company for 1st Century Bank, splits his time between the bank and Premier Partnerships, a sports marketing firm he started. The former litigator has worked at some of Los Angeles' biggest law firms, including Latham & Watkins and O'Melveny & Myers, and is the current president of the Los Angeles World Airports Commission. But perhaps his most resounding achievements have come in the soccer world. Despite having never even seeing a game until his late 20s, Rothenberg was instrumental in arranging the soccer games in the 1984 Olympics and he ran the 1994 World Cup. Shortly thereafter, he helped start Major League Soccer. A prot & #233;g & #233; of former Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke, Rothenberg has built an enduring legacy of his own. And though he is approaching his 70th birthday, he has not slowed down. He still heads 1st Century, which has so far weathered the financial crisis. Rothenberg recently sat down with the Business Journal to discuss his career, current pursuits and future.

Question: How did you end up pursuing such diverse challenges? Did you set out to be a renaissance man?

Answer: It just happened. I've always had enough curiosity and enough energy I guess that when new opportunities come along I say, "Why not?" I haven't mapped anything out, quite honestly. My modus operandi has always been do the best at whatever it is that's in front of you and something good will happen from that. If not, you'll still feel good about the fact that you did the best at whatever you were doing. In some cases, it was more guts than brains.

Q: What do you mean?

A: I did stuff that maybe from a risk-calculation standpoint I probably shouldn't have done: I left O'Melveny & Myers then the biggest law firm to join Chuck Manatt in the San Fernando Valley with three guys. A year into that I left them to join Jack Kent Cooke.

Q: That seems like a great opportunity.

A: It was a great opportunity but (Cooke's) reputation was that he was the toughest guy in the world and impossible to work for. My attitude was, OK, he could be, but what's the worst that could happen? He chews me up and spits me out and I'm practicing law again. That's what I was going to do anyway, so what have I got to lose? When the World Cup opportunity came along, I thought that's so exciting. Starting a bank is similar.


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