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People to Watch

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK 2003

– The Waiting Game

People to Watch


Cardinal Roger Mahony

While not approaching the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of Boston, L.A.’s Roman Catholic hierarchy, led by Mahony, will face many challenging days in 2003 starting on Jan. 1. That’s when a new state law takes effect waiving the statute of limitations for one year to allow victims of older sexual abuse cases to sue the church and other institutions in civil court.

While Mahony plans to challenge the law in court, the year will be spent addressing new and existing charges of covering up alleged sexual abuse. And now that Cardinal Bernard Law is gone in Boston, reformers will be calling on additional resignations among the church’s upper echelons. That could include Mahony.

If that weren’t enough, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles faces budgetary problems that surfaced shortly after the $190-million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels opened in downtown Los Angeles in September. Soon after, the cardinal ordered $4.5 million in budget cuts, resulting in 60 lay and religious employees being laid off.

Deborah Belgum

Bernard Parks

The former LAPD chief, ousted by Mayor James Hahn and his Police Commission earlier this year, begins his second act.

Parks is widely expected to win election in March to the Eighth City Council District seat vacated by term-limited Mark Ridley-Thomas. So far, there’s little hint of what he intends to do in office and the speculation is tantalizing. Will he try to assert control over police matters and thwart the moves of his successor, William Bratton? Will he hold a grudge against Hahn for pushing him out the door? Or will he follow in the footsteps of Tom Bradley, another high-ranking black police official who went on the council and solidified his political base before running for mayor?

Watch for how Parks relates to Councilman Dennis Zine, a former high-ranking member of the Police Protective League. The PPL vigorously opposed Parks during his tenure as chief and actively campaigned for his ouster.

Howard Fine

Jenny Oropeza

The Long Beach assemblywoman is fond of saying she relishes a challenge. Now, as chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, she has a gigantic one: trying to get agreement on closing the state’s budget deficit, estimated at $35 billion over the next 18 months.

She will be charged with getting Democrats and Republicans on the committee to agree on a budget package and move it to the Assembly floor. She’s also vice chair of the joint legislative budget committee, meaning that she will have to iron out differences between the more liberal (read: tax-prone) Senate and the more moderate Assembly. If she pulls that off and Oropeza will need a lot of help from Gov. Gray Davis on down expect a higher profile that could propel her up the ranks.

Howard Fine

Jean-Rene Fourtou

With Vivendi Universal considering what to do with its U.S. entertainment assets studio, theme parks, music division, etc. most of the attention has focused on whether Barry Diller will make an offer, perhaps in concert with Liberty Media’s John Malone, or as part of an IPO. Diller makes good copy, of course, but whatever happens will require the say-so of Chief Executive Jean-Rene Fourtou, who last summer replaced the extravagant Jean-Marie Messier after Vivendi’s debt levels skyrocketed.

Fourtou is no Messier. Prior to Vivendi, he was a relatively anonymous vice-chairman of the French-German pharmaceutical group Aventis, a role that provided him plenty of face time with French President Jacques Chirac’s inner circle and now offers a significant power base.

He has shown little of the star-struck qualities that many say upended his predecessor. The first order of business has been to clean up the company’s balance sheet; so far he has sold more than $5 billion in assets, including publisher Houghton-Mifflin, and pledged to reduce debt to $14.3 billion by the end of the year. But can he hold onto the showbiz stuff? This fall, oil billionaire Marvin Davis made a $20 billion offer for Universal, which Fourtou promptly rejected. But there will be others buzzing about besides Diller and Malone.

Conor Dougherty

Johannes Van Tilburg

With L.A. encouraging residential development in commercial areas, the Dutch-born principal of Santa Monica-based Van Tilburg Banvard & Soderbergh figures to be in high demand.

Earlier this year, Van Tilburg got the nod to design the 583-apartment mixed-use project being planned for the Furama Hotel site near Los Angeles International Airport. In October, Van Tilburg was called on by the Worldwide Church of God to be the master architect for its 48-acre Ambassador College campus in Pasadena.

The new business represents a step-up in scale for Van Tilburg, considered the region’s foremost practitioner of residential-over-retail design. The architect made his mark more than a decade ago by designing early mixed-use projects like Janss Court on the Third Street Promenade and the Venice Renaissance building.

Danny King

Thomas Scully

There probably isn’t a person in the world more important to the county or the legions of uninsured who rely on it for health care. Appointed by President Bush to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the massive government health agency, Scully is the point man in negotiations between the feds and state and county over the future of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

The county and state are looking for $700 million in federal funds to help bail the department out of its massive budget deficit, and while Scully may not make the final decision his opinion will count a lot. He reports directly to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Should the money not come through, expect county supervisors to cut more health services, overloading already crowded private hospital emergency rooms the medical providers of last resort with more of the uninsured.

Laurence Darmiento

Ronald Sugar

Kent Kresa put Northrop Grumman Corp. together through a series of acquisitions, but it will be up to Ronald Sugar to make sure that the collection of companies works as a whole.

Heir apparent to Chairman and Chief Executive Kresa since the L.A. defense giant acquired Litton Industries (which he headed), Sugar will likely shed his understudy role in March, when Kresa reaches mandatory retirement age of 65. While Sugar hasn’t been promised the job outright, his contract calls for him to receive a hefty severance payout if he doesn’t get it.

It’s been a busy apprenticeship. Sugar, who is president and chief operating officer, maintained a high profile in Northrop’s acquisition of Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. in late 2001. He played an even greater role in the purchase of his former employer, TRW Inc., where Sugar was once passed over for the top job. Now, he’ll finally get his turn.

Anthony Palazzo

Deborah Borda

Executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Borda is in charge of filling the 2,232-seat hall that will open in October as the new home of the L.A. Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The symphony will present about 100 concerts during the subscription season, but there also are 60 additional concerts that include performances by the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Venice Baroque Orchestra. “Our goal is to have the concert hall 90 to 95 percent occupied,” said Borda, the former executive director of the New York Philharmonic.

The Los Angeles Phil will be moving its administrative digs from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the end of May. The music begins in October. “When I came here from New York, my assignment was to put together a season that no one could forget,” Borda said. “We are positioning the Los Angeles Philharmonic to be one of the major presenters of music in the world.”

Deborah Belgum

Alain Giraud

Foodies will recognize Giraud as the French chef who had been No. 2 at Michel Richard’s Citrus and head man at Loews Santa Monica Hotel’s Lavande. Now his new restaurant, Bastide (farmhouse in French), is making more gastronomic waves.

Nearly three years in the making, the Melrose Place locale provides a slice of Provence and seats only 80 diners. Giraud, a burly and bearded chef in his early 40s, is being financed by Joe Pytka, the wealthy and often bombastic director of TV commercials. Pytka is a gourmet and wanted to own a restaurant. Giraud is a chef who wanted to run his own show.

With the deep pockets of Pytka, the two have created a little auberge that opened in late October in the middle of urban L.A. The big question in restaurant circles is whether the two can get along for the long term.

Deborah Belgum

Bill Maher

Perhaps he’ll be getting the last laugh after all.

Since ABC canceled his “Politically Incorrect” late-night roundtable, Mahr has written a book, (“When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism”), and starting Feb. 21, he will be hosting a weekly hour-long news and comedy program live from CBS Television City presumably with a “Politically Incorrect” feel to it.

With the government prepared to march into Iraq, Maher is sure to tap into questions about U.S. foreign policy just as he did on ABC when he implied that the 9/11 terrorists showed courage by plowing into the World Trade Center. Not exactly the way to please advertisers and affiliates. But this time around, there are no advertisers or affiliates to worry about.

Deborah Belgum

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