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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023




Staff Reporter

The 40 rising stars spotlighted by the Business Journal last year are not getting older they’re getting more successful.

While most of those profiled are in the same positions, many of their companies are now larger, and some of their responsibilities have been expanded.

One other thing: The jobs tend to get even tougher.

“I’m working harder becuase of an increase in business and a greater involvement in the community,” says Dominic Ng, the 38-year-old president and CEO of East-West Bank.

Ng, who serves on the Board of Governors of Town Hall and the board of the United Way, is not alone. Many of the Business Journal 40 found that as their success grew, so did their desire to become more involved in the community activities that often conflicted with already busy schedules.

Frank Moran, president of Team-One Staffing Services Inc., knows all too well about the conflict.

Moran, 36, spent much of last year in his role as president of the Latin Business Association, which has gained a significantly higher profile in L.A.’s business community. The bad news is that his own business saw only modest growth last year.

As a result, Moran, who was recently re-elected to the LBA, says he will do more delegating.

“What being involved with the LBA has shown me is that we have an enormous capability to do far more in a more efficient manner when we have to,” says Moran. “I’m getting better at the same game and one of the key ingredients is the ability to delegate.”

Financial success stories abound among last year’s group.

Robert Kotick, chief executive of Activision, saw earnings climb last year to $5.5 million on revenues of $61.4 million, compared with a net loss of $1.5 million on revenues of $40.7 million the year before.

Kotick attributes the company’s revenue growth, which has been about 40 percent a year, to an increase in the number of game titles and an increasing base of hardware PCs and game stations on which to play Activision games.

“We’re now at a revenue base where opportunities are coming more quickly and more ferociously, especially with our revenue growth in international markets,” says Kotick. “I’m even more energized seeing many of our competitors performing poorly.”

John Bryant is another entrepreneur from last year’s report who has seen his organization grow.

Bryant founded Operation HOPE Inc., a non-profit banking group that helps inner-city L.A. businesses and individuals get loans from financial institutions. Since its founding in 1992, Operation HOPE has acted as intermediary between lenders and South Central L.A. customers on some $13 million in home and business loans.

“Every loan but one is paying, and that one has been reworked to get them paying again,” said Bryant.

The organization also opened its Operation Hope Banking Center last September a collaborative effort of 40 participating banks to provide community lending and financial services and financial and credit education.

“These communities are viable most folks work and pay their bills, but they don’t have access to capital or economic education,” he says.

Not surprisingly, there was movement among the show business names.

Jamie Tarses, known by her maiden name McDermott in last year’s report, moved from NBC to become president of ABC Entertainment, while Lisa Henson, no longer president of Columbia Pictures, now is a producer with a three-year deal at Columbia.

Meanwhile, the Barbie doll business was very good to Jean McKenzie, who has been promoted to executive vice president and general manager of Mattel Inc.’s Worldwide Barbie Division heading up the operation she had wanted to work for since she was a young girl.

McKenzie, 37, says her new role has kept her busier. She now must focus on more than just marketing. Under her direction, the division has created new versions of Barbie and has increased its sales by 20 percent worldwide.

That suggests more girls around the world are buying Barbies and those who had already owned Barbies now own more. At last count, the average American girl owned eight Barbies.

Not all of the company founders from last year’s report have fared as well some, in fact, have hit some major glitches.

One example is Sae Hyun Uhm, president and CEO of K. Young Inc., a Koreatown-based real estate development firm.

With the backing of his father’s massive South Korean construction company, Uhm had developed or was in the process of developing about $440 million worth of office and residential projects in the Western United States, including the proposed Palladian World Tower, a $106 million commercial project planned for a site in Glendale.

But the 30-year-old’s ambitious plans were put on hold this past year when South Korea’s construction industry was crippled, in part by political scandal, and his father was forced to give up control of his $2 billion empire.

Without the backing of his father’s company, Uhm has been unable to get the loans needed to keep the project on schedule. As a result, Uhm has apparently abandoned the project and has put the Glendale site up for sale.

Pac 10 Partners, a partnership headed by two local real estate figures, Peter Hillman and Nyal Leslie, and backed by Morgan Stanley & Co., is reportedly about to close a deal to purchase the property.

The attorneys on last year’s list appear to be holding up well.

Kelli Sager, 37, represented a group of media companies on “access issues” related to the O.J. Simpson criminal and civil trials. She successfully fought to get TV cameras into the courtroom for the criminal trial, to get an audio feed from the courtroom into the press room for the civil trial, and to get media access to various documents for both trials.

Although Sager calls the work “crazy busy,” she says the experience has been a major plus. “It has been a wonderful career opportunity and has resulted in a lot of speaking engagements,” she says.

Sager, who was recently elected chair of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communication, continues to work for many of the same media-related clients she represented in the Simpson trials, but on different issues.

Others from last year’s list also took steps to further their careers. As an example, two young health care stars moved on to what they saw as greater opportunities.

Peter Bastone, 39, left as CEO of Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood to become president and CEO of Mission Hosptial Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. Bastone, who is a Roman Catholic, saw the move from one hospital to the other (both of which are Catholic non-profit hospitals) as kind of a calling.

“I had used my gifts to turn Daniel Freeman around and felt it was time to use my skills to help another hospital,” says Bastone.

And Arthur Southam, formerly president and CEO of CareAmerican Health Plans, “moved across Canoga Avenue” to become president and CEO of Health Net. “It is an exciting opportunity and a larger organization which is and will continue to be a major force in the health care industry,” says Southam.

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