Firm: Latham & Watkins
Specialty: Real estate development lobbying
Recent Deals: Downtown sports arena, DreamWorks SKG projects, Universal Studios expansion
Take a look at some of L.A.’s biggest development deals these days and chances are you’ll come across Latham & Watkins attorney and City Hall lobbyist George Mihlsten.
Among the items on Mihlsten’s agenda: brokering Edward Roski Jr. and Philip Anschutz’s plan to build a $250 million downtown sports arena, helping DreamWorks SKG build facilities in Playa Vista and Glendale, and negotiating the Universal Studios expansion in Universal City.
He also is working on Pepperdine University’s master plan and deregulation issues for Southern California Edison. “The work generally is exciting, the clients are fabulous, (and) the issues are the upper-crust issues impacting Southern California and the state,” Mihlsten said.
Those at City Hall say Mihlsten is a tough negotiator who rarely backs down from what his client wants (though he sometimes is lax about returning phone calls).
“He’s obviously well-connected with the large players in town,” said Greig Smith, City Councilman Hal Bernson’s chief of staff. “He’s a very easy-going, personable guy. And representing one of the major law firms in town, he is able to get a lot done.”
Mihlsten, a Houston native, spent several years after leaving high school in his junior year traveling around the country before arriving in L.A. in the early 1970s.
He spent the latter half of that decade at USC, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1977, and then an M.B.A. and law degree simultaneously in 1980. Mihlsten joined the downtown law firm Latham & Watkins, where he is now a partner.
It was during his years of traveling that Mihlsten says he developed his more compassionate side (unusual in a business known for cutthroat tectics).
“I was the only Jewish-Republican-hippie in the United States who didn’t do drugs,” the self-effacing lawyer said. “But I learned a lot in my travels, mainly that I care about people. How clich & #233; does that sound?”