1 — Rupert Murdoch
With a net worth of $3.2 billion, the Australian-born media czar’s control of Sydney-based News Corp. gives him such powerful toys as Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., the Fox TV network, 22 U.S. TV stations, cable outlets like FX, Fox Sports, Fox News and satellite systems such as British Sky Broadcasting in Europe and Star TV in Asia.
In a word: Empire. And in 1998, the world of Citizen Murdoch isn’t going to be getting any smaller.
Look for the 67-year-old media titan to continue to expand deeper into Asia, even though the region is suffering severe financial unrest.
Such bargain hunting could make Wall Streeters nervous. They recall that the richest Angeleno went on an acquisition spree in the early 1990s that nearly left News Corp. insolvent.
At home, Murdoch remains a wheeler dealer to watch, especially with his purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The storied franchise is a key to Murdoch’s West Coast cable sports network, which is battling Burbank-based Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN for the lucrative regional sports cable dollar. The next step could be an NFL franchise, especially if efforts to get a team in the Coliseum drag on.
2 — Barry Diller
Can magic strike twice for Barry Diller?
Having successfully launched the Fox Network a decade ago, the entertainment mogul is at it again; this time he’s trying to launch the seventh major U.S. television network using cable as the main delivery system.
Diller made his cable bid in October with his purchase of the major television assets of Universal Studios Inc., including the highly popular USA and Sci-fi networks on cable. With these new channels to add to his Home Shopping Network, Diller’s HSN Inc. now has a formidable reach on cable.
But launching a network isn’t easy, as executives at the WB and UPN know all too well.
To pull it off, Diller is going to have to bring every ounce of his fabled programming talent to bear, starting next fall. He will also have to convince any holdout cable operators to carry all his channels and potentially reluctant major advertisers to take the plunge into cable.
3 — Harry C. Stonecipher
In the hands of the Seattle-based Boeing Co.’s top brass, including President and Chief Operating Officer Harry C. Stonecipher, is the fate of 10,500 workers at the company’s Douglas Products Division in Long Beach.
The facilities were acquired as part of Boeing’s 1997 purchase of McDonnell Douglas Corp. Stonecipher, who was president and chief executive of McDonnell Douglas before joining Boeing, is considered a crucial player in the decision-making process concerning Long Beach.
Boeing recently announced it will wind down the production of some Douglas commercial jets and expand production of others. All eyes are on Boeing executives to see if and how the Douglas facilities in Long Beach will be ramped up or reconfigured to help the company meet its ambitious production schedules and deliver aircraft on time. The possibility also exists that Boeing would downsize its Long Beach operations or shut them down altogether.
4 — Julian Burke
Since stepping in last August as interim chief for the beleaguered Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Julian Burke has managed to do one extraordinary thing stay on the job.
His predecessor, Joseph Drew, resigned amid escalating pressure from MTA board members. Before that, MTA chief Franklin White was outright fired.
Burke seems to have the stomach for the job. Shortly after taking over, he announced plans to raise rail fees and cut bus service on 68 lines to help make up for a $51 million shortfall in the agency’s $1.1 billion budget.
The 70-year-old attorney, who helped clean up the Teamsters’ corrupt Central States Pension Fund, helped bring the Penn Central railroad back to health, and aided in the revival of two insurance companies, is no amateur.
“The politics are tough. You need a guy like Burke, who’s honest, who’s tough, who doesn’t need the job,” said Mayor Richard Riordan, who asked Burke to assist him with the ailing agency after New York City transit executive Michael C. Ascher turned down the top post.
5 — Ike Massey
As the Los Angeles point man for Dean Singleton, Ike Massey will play an increasingly visible role in Southern California’s newspaper scene.
Massey is president and chief executive of the recently created Suburban Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which consists of Singleton’s MediaNews Group’s newly purchased Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Dailey News of Los Angeles, as well as the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News.
Having piloted the consolidation of Singleton’s three San Gabriel Valley papers in 1996, Massey is expected to play a key role in bringing the Press-Telegram and Daily News into the MediaNews fold, working out clustering and consolidation strategies.
Moreover, there is no reason to believe Singleton is about to stop with his current purchases. Industry observers believe that acquisition of the L.A. papers owned by Copley Newspapers The Santa Monica Outlook, the Torrance Daily Breeze and the San Pedro News-Pilot would complete Singleton’s game plan of surrounding the mighty L.A. Times with community newspapers.
6 — Paul Allen
“What’s Paul Allen doing in Los Angeles?” asked a recent Forbes magazine headline. The article was not able to fully answer the question, but the Seattle-based software billionaire appears to be putting down roots. A long-time friend of local mogul David Geffen, Allen owns a stake in Dreamworks SKG and recently invested in a local children’s entertainment company called Storyopolis. He also reportedly has purchased a home near Beverly Hills.
What’s the draw? The Microsoft Corp. pioneer who with an estimated personal fortune of $17 billion is the third-richest person in the nation, according to Forbes long has been fascinated with show business, and has invested a reported $1.7 billion in at least a dozen young media, entertainment, and technology companies. Like a growing number of other high-tech and new-media entrepreneurs, Allen is on the hunt for content and as the world’s entertainment center with a large number of interactive media firms, L.A. is not a bad place to search.
7 — Antonio Villaraigosa
With the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding term limits for state legislators earlier this month, the one to watch in Sacramento is Antonio R. Villaraigosa.
The Democratic assemblyman from Los Angeles is the top lieutenant to Assembly Speaker Cruz M. Bustamante, D-Fresno, and the Assembly majority leader. Bustamante, who holds the Assembly’s most powerful position, faces term limits in 1998, unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the term-limits ban something that is not expected.
That means that Villaraigosa whose political stance is to the left of even his Democratic colleagues is favored to be the next speaker of the Assembly. If that should happen, Villaraigosa would be the first speaker from the L.A. area since Bob Moretti, who served in the post from 1971 to 1974.
Villaraigosa’s bills in the Assembly have targeted such issues as the rights of mothers to breast-feed in public and funding for juvenile probation camps.
Villaraigosa, who has lived in the L.A. area his entire life and is a 1977 graduate of UCLA, is also thought to be a strong future candidate for mayor of Los Angeles or for Congress.
The consummate consensus-builder, Villaraigosa’s last name (pronounced “vee-ya-rye-go-sa”) is a combination of his family name, Villar, and his wife’s maiden name, Raigosa.
8 — Barry Munitz
With the opening of the Getty Center, Los Angeles can claim a world-class center of the arts and humanities.
Now, it’s up to Barry Munitz, the center’s incoming president and chief executive, to make sure that the Getty’s striking marble campus, located high atop a hill overlooking the San Diego Freeway, is more than a gleaming temple of culture.
Munitz, the former chancellor of California State University, the largest system of public higher education in the United States, will assume his new post on Jan. 5. And despite the career change, education is likely to remain high on his agenda.
A long-time foe of cutbacks in funding for the arts, and specifically for arts education in the public schools, Munitz plans to use the Getty’s considerable resources to bring high culture to one of the most ethnically and economically diverse cities in the world.
He also has spoken of using the Getty’s clout to reach out to other elements of L.A.’s arts world not just other museums, but to Hollywood, which traditionally has been isolated from civic activities.
9 — John Kilroy Jr.
John B. Kilroy, Jr. just finished a fervid year and has a blueprint for an even busier one in 1998. Kilroy, president and chief executive of Kilroy Realty Corp., saw his El Segundo-based real estate investment trust post a $331 million initial public offering this year. For next year, Kilroy already has more than $500 million of development expected to break ground and is under contract to purchase $200 million in commercial office and industrial properties within the first half of the year.
Kilroy has been involved in commercial real estate for the past 30 years. His father, John Kilroy Sr., founded the development and management company Kilroy Industries in 1947. The younger Kilroy became involved in the company in the early 1970s and was instrumental in taking the company public last January.
Kilroy, however, shrugs off his own importance. “This company has a very deep bench,” he said, noting that the average senior executive has 15 years of experience in the industry.
10 –Mark Finucane
As L.A. County health services director, Mark Finucane is at the center of fire on several fronts in 1998.
“This is exactly the type of thing I came here to do,” said Finucane, who joined the L.A. County health department almost two years ago from the Contra Costa health department.
With county supervisors opting for a 600-bed facility to replace the existing 900-bed County/USC Medical Center, it’s up to Finucane to determine where to make the cuts and to negotiate with the unions to put them in place.
Finucane’s department will also recommend which private sector hospitals will receive the contracts for the remaining beds.
That’s on top of the already existing mandate to increase the number of neighborhood outpatient clinics; some of those will be contracted out to the private sector.
One other thing: Finucane’s department came under fire last month over its health inspection program for restaurants. Having pledged to revamp the program, Finucane will need to restore public confidence.