As one of the most powerful and influential areas in the world, Southern California leads the way in business, innovation and philanthropic giving. Here are the Who’s Who of Southern California’s Leaders in Business, Innovation and Philanthropy for 2019.
Chairman, Chief Executive, NantWorks; Owner, Executive Chairman Los Angeles Times
Currently #85 on the Forbes 400 list, Patrick Soon-Shiong has made his wealth from the pharmaceuticals industry. One of his most successful drugs was a cancer fighting drug called Abraxane used to treat pancreatic cancer. Along with the drug creation, he is the owner of several other health startups. Aside from his health endeavors, in 2018 he bought the L.A. Times and San Diego Tribune for a reported $500 million. His formal education includes an undergraduate degree from the University of Witwatersrand, a Masters Degree from the University of British Columbia and a Medical Doctor from the University of Witwatersrand. His passion for health science has not only benefited his family, but many cancer patients around the world.
Founder & CEO, Air Lease Corporation
Steven Udvar-Hazy is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Air Lease Corporation. Originally from Budapest, Udvar-Hazy is credited by many to have started the airplane leasing industry. He started International Lease Finance Corp., an aircraft leasing company that started by leasing a single aircraft to Aeromexico in 1973. He eventually sold the company to AIG for $1.3 billion in 1990. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s annex was named The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center after a reported $60 million donation in 2010. In 2016, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban honored Udvar-Hazy with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary.
Founder, Sun America; Founder, KB Homes; Founder, The Broad
Eli Broad is the only person to build two Fortune 500 companies in different industries – real estate and insurance. He started home builder Kaufman & Broad in 1957, which went on to become one of the largest home builders in the nation. Later on, his company Sun Life Insurance was sold to AIG for a stock deal worth $18 billion. Broads’ philanthropic work starts with The Broad Foundation, which assists with the advancement of entrepreneurship, science and the arts. He and his wife Edythe founded The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles in 2015, a museum which offers free admission and is home to more than 2,000 works of art. The Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation recently gifted $10 million to support stem cell research at USC, part of $30 million in total giving to stem cell research centers at California universities. The funds will be used for faculty recruitment and training, contributing to the process of modeling diseases, identifying important mechanisms, and designing new gene therapies to combat various age-related illnesses.
Founder & Chairman, Rusnak Auto Group
Southern California icon Paul Rusnak is the Founder and Chairman of Rusnak Auto Group – the luxury automobile seller that has 18 different luxury dealerships throughout Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties. Rusnak Auto Group sells the brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Volvo, Genesis, Hyundai and Karma.
He is the largest shareholder – owning nearly 18% – of Sonic Automotive Group, a Fortune 500 company that is the fifth largest automotive retailer in the United States. He is also one of the largest individual shareholders of MGM Resorts International. He has received the “Outstanding Business Leader” Award from Northwood University and the AIADA “Dealer of Distinction” Award, and has chaired a number of industry and charitable organizations such as the International Aids Research Hospital and Foundation. Rusnak was Chairman of Chrysler Corporation President’s Council, where dealers were one of five founding members of the “Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Restoration” program. In 2016, he received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from SIAS International University at Zhengzhou in the Province of Henan – one of China’s most prestigious universities.
Rusnak was recently nominated for the 2020 TIME Dealer of the Year Ward and nationally recognized for his community service and industry accomplishments. Learn more by clicking here.
Founders, The Wonderful Company
Odds are you have experienced one or several of the products Stewart and Lynda Resnick have created. Starting with a small farm, this couple has grown their holding company, The Wonderful Company, to include brands such as Halos mandarin oranges, Fiji Water and POM Wonderful. The couple also have a stake in Kern Water Bank, one of the largest underground water storage facilities in California. Married with five children, the couple is also active in giving back in the community. Stewart currently sits on several boards, including the board of trustees of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Advisory Board of the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Lynda is a life trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees and on the Board of Trustees and Chair of Marketing and Communications at the Aspen Institute.
Stewart and Lynda Resnick recently pledged $750 million to the California Institute of Technology to address climate issues, serving as the largest gift in the institution’s history and the second largest gift in U.S. history. A major outcome of the gift will be the construction of the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center, where researchers will engage in various initiatives related to climate science, sustainable energy, decomposable plastic, and biosphere engineering. The gift will also be utilized to create an endowment to fund research across the various academic areas of CalTech as well as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is housed and administered on the campus.
Founder, Yucaipa Companies
Founder of private equity firm Yucaipa Companies, Ron Burkle has earned success through investments in underperforming companies such as Fred Meyer, Dominick’s, and Food 4 Less. He has also invested heavily in tech startups including SeatGeek, Uber, and Airbnb through his co-founded A-Grade Investments group. He is also currently a co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Burkle’s philanthropic pursuits include the Ronald W. Burkle Foundation and Burkle Center for International Relations, both of which work to improve international cooperation. He currently serves on the board of the National Urban League, Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.
Co-Founder, DreamWorks Animation SKG
David Geffen founded Asylum Records and co-founded DreamWorks Animation SKG with Steven Spielberg and Jeffery Katzenberg. He is often labeled as Hollywood’s richest man. A self-made billionaire, he began by working in a mailroom and worked his way up to becoming a talent agent. Geffen is an avid art collector and has amassed quite the collection which includes many notable artists. His love of art is so great that he pledged $150 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is also a huge donor to UCLA, and in 2001 the medical school was renamed the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA after a reported donation of $200 million.
Owner, Los Angeles Rams
Owner of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment which includes the Los Angeles Rams and English Premier League football club Arsenal, Stan Kroenke is involved in owning professional sports teams, real estate and land holdings. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke of the Walmart fortune, owns the NBA Denver Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche in order to satisfy NFL ownership restrictions Stan must abide by. While his career began in real estate, he quickly become a name in the sports arena with his acquisitions and success.
President and Chairman, Majestic Realty Co.
Edward P. Roski, Jr. is the President and Chairman of the Board of Majestic Realty Co. He also is co-owner of the Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Staples Center. He served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps from 1962 to 1966 where he was decorated for bravery with two Purple Hearts. He now resides in Los Angeles with his wife Gayle Garner Roski, with whom he has three children and eight grandchildren. A member of the famed Explorers Club, he has climbed to Base Camp at Mt. Everest, K2, and Mt. Kilimanjaro, ridden his bike across Mongolia, Russia, and Burma, made several deep-water dives throughout New Guinea, and descended in a Russian submersible to the wreck of the Titanic, 2.5 miles beneath the ocean’s surface. He serves on the Board of Trustees at the University of Southern California as well as on boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Bowers Museum, The California Science Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission. Additionally, Ed has joined the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society, serving on the Executive Committee.
Founder, Meruelo Group
Alex Meruelo is the owner of the Meruelo Group, Meruelo Media, Fuji Food, and the Sahara Las Vegas casino. The Meruelo Group is a commercial real estate investment firm with significant holdings in Southern California and Nevada while Meruelo Media owns television and radio stations and Fuji Food serves as the nation’s largest distributor of pre-packaged sushi. He recently purchased majority ownership in the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. The son of Cuban immigrants, he learned business skills through work in his family’s tuxedo shop and excelled at a young age with a rapidly expanding pizza chain.
Chairman and CEO, Hing Wa Lee Group
Chairman and CEO of Hing Wa Lee Group, David Lee – who owns renown Hing Wa Lee Jewelers, which provides the finest selection of watches and jewelry – is an entrepreneur, investor and car collector. A graduate from University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business, Lee joined the family business and changed the business model to retail catering to the growing Chinese-American market in Southern California and local affluent clientele in the San Gabriel Valley. The famous collector of 30+ Ferraris and other rare and exotic automobiles – valued by some at over $50 million – has a huge impact on the local communities and world-wide with over 1.2 million followers on social media.
Former Owner, C.R. Laurence
Donald Friese credits his work ethic to long days of labor on dairy and hog farms growing up as an orphan in Pennsylvania. He later served as a missile mechanic overseas in Japan after the Korean War. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he took a job with the glass manufacturer C.R. Laurence, where he cross-trained on all aspects of the operation. Over time, he bought stake in the company, eventually becoming sole owner. When he sold his company for $1.3 billion in 2015, he distributed $85 million to long-time employees, some receiving over $1 million.
Founder, Cogent Systems
Ming Hsieh originally learned electrical engineering as an apprentice for his father in rural China before following in his uncle’s footsteps, moving to USC to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. After several years designing circuits, he established his own firm, Cogent Systems. The company designed biometric systems for various government agencies within the United States and Canada. Hsieh also founded the Ming Hsieh Institute which takes an interdisciplinary approach to cancer treatment using nanotechnology. He has donated significantly to the USC School of Engineering and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and currently serves on the USC Board of Trustees.
Co-Founder, PRITZKER Group
Anthony Pritzker is part owner of The Pritzker Group and heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune. With a net worth around $3.3 billion, Anthony is among the wealthiest individuals in California. Along with The Pritzker Group, the business has a stake in the well-known firm SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk. Philanthropic work includes being the chair of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability board of advisors.
Owner, In-N-Out Burger
Lynsi Snyder is the owner and heiress of the In-N-Out Burger Company and a billionaire businesswoman. According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, she is one of the youngest American female billionaires at only 36 years old. On her 30th birthday she took ownership of her father’s shares totaling 50% of the company, and later on gained full control of the company at the age of 35. She is an avid supporter of many humanitarian causes. Snyder’s In-N-Out Burger Foundation focuses on supporting abused and destitute children. She also supports nonprofit organizations like Healing Hearts & Nations that work towards building training centers in Africa and India to uplift the local underprivileged community.
Chairman, President & Ceo East West Bank
Dominic Ng joined East West Bank in 1991 and since then, has transformed the company from a small savings and loan association with a reported $600 million in assets into the full-service commercial bank that it is today with a reported $38.1 billion in total assets. He has received many awards and honors for his leadership in business and the community, including being named by the Sino-US Times as one of the top 20 U.S. and China Economic Trade leaders, Forbes’ 25 most notable Chinese Americans and the Los Angeles Times’ 100 most influential people in Los Angeles, among others. He is a member of the University of Southern California Board of Trustees. Mr. Ng is also the former Chairman of the Committee of 100, the prestigious leadership organization of Chinese-Americans in business, government, academia and the arts whose aim is “to encourage constructive relations between the people of the United States and Greater China.”
Owner, Los Angeles Clippers
While Steve Ballmer has owned the Los Angeles Clippers since 2014, his name is most recognizable from his tenure with Microsoft. Ballmer was hired by Microsoft in 1980, later replacing Bill Gates as CEO in 2000, a position he held for 14 years. He is known for his exuberant enthusiasm, which was most recently on display during a press conference in which the Clippers announced the signings of NBA all-stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George where he abandoned his prepared remarks due to his excitement. Ever true to his Microsoft roots, he has announced that the Clippers will not use any products from competitor Apple. He and wife Connie have donated heavily to their respective alma maters Harvard University and the University of Oregon. Ballmer also serves on the World Chairman’s Council for the Jewish National Fund.
Chairman, The Irvine Company
Donald Bren is the Chairman of the Board of the Irvine Company. He joined the Mission Viejo Company in 1963 after serving three years as an officer in the Marine Corps. Later on, he sold his interest and in 1977 became a member of an investment group that purchased Irvine Company. After becoming Chairman of the Board and principal shareholder in 1983, he went on to become the sole shareholder of the company in 1996.
Irvine Company’s property portfolio exceeds 120 million square feet. It includes more than 550 office buildings, 40 retail centers, 125 apartment communities with nearly 64,000 units, one coastal resort, two hotels, three golf courses and five marinas primarily in Orange County, California, with one-third of the investment properties in West Los Angeles, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Chicago and New York City.
It has been estimated that Bren has donated more than $1.3 billion during his lifetime to causes such as regional land preservation and conservation, education, bioscience and technology research. He has received numerous awards and accolades over the course of time, including the University of California Presidential Medal and Caltech’s Robert A. Millikan Medal.
Co-Founders, Co-Chairs, Co-CEOs, Panda Restaurant Group
Co-Founders of the popular Chinese fast food brand Panda Express, Andrew and Peggy Cherng have created a long-lasting legacy in Southern California and around the world. Peggy has been a driving operational force since joining the organization in 1982, developing systems benefiting both customers and the organization’s growth. Andrew’s leadership and business acumen have propelled Panda Restaurant Group to extraordinary heights, and he has been recognized by Forbes and other publications for his business excellence. He also received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Both Andrew and Peggy are active in giving back to various communities through Panda Cares, a philanthropic effort that has donated millions of dollars to non-profit organizations, schools and children’s hospitals. Additionally, both have been inducted into the National Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame.
Founder, HANKEY Group
Don Hankey is the Chairman of Hankey Group. Hankey has built his wealth through subprime auto lending and continues to be among the wealthiest individuals. He is a self-made billionaire who obtained his formal education from the University of Southern California. He is also a real estate investor in the Los Angeles community. He currently is married with four children and one of his sons, Don Rufus Hankey is the Chairman of Nowcom, which is a Hankey Group company.
Haim Saban is a media and entertainment mogul, businessman and philanthropist. He is the founder of Saban Entertainment, which produced television programs such as the Power Rangers. Saban led a group which purchased Univision, where he is currently the Chairman. Saban is active politically and a strong supporter of pro-Jewish causes. Former President Bill Clinton has called him a “very good friend and supporter.” He founded the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a foreign policy think tank that provides policy makers with information and analysis on the Middle East. Some of the philanthropic work includes giving to the Soroka Medical Center.
Founder & CEO, SpaceX; CEO, Tesla, Inc.; Chairman of SolarCity; Co-Founder & CEO of Neuralink; Founder of The Boring Company
One of the most notable names throughout the world, Elon Musk is the founder of companies such as Tesla and SpaceX. Musk has set out to revolutionize the way we travel. Tesla is a leader in the electric car space and continues to innovate, with the latest offering being electric semi trucks. SpaceX continues to be a pivotal part of Musk’s success. As commercial space exploration continues to become a reality, this company is sending rockets into space and having rockets land back on earth to be reused in future launches. His newest company, The Boring Company, is digging travel tunnels underneath Los Angeles in hopes of solving the city’s traffic problems. As one of the richest men in the world, he continues to expand the way we think about automobiles and solving the inefficiencies in the world.
Chairman, Cushman & Wakefield
John Cushman currently serves as Chairman of Global Transactions and Chairman of the Board at Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate services company that invests in commercial properties. He oversaw a massive international expansion of the company through partnerships with firms in Europe, Asia, South American, Mexico, and Canada. In addition to his work in real estate, Cushman has served in a number of capacities. Within California, he previously served on the California Commission on Jobs and Economic Growth and currently serves on the Los Angeles Economy and Jobs Committee. He also serves as director for the National Park Foundation, Real Estate Roundtable, Callaway Golf Company, and Zaca Mesa Winery. He serves as a trustee for the Urban Land Institute and is Trustee Emeritus for Colgate University. He has also worked extensively with the Boy Scouts of America organization’s National Executive Board.
Co-founder, Evercore Partners
Austin Beutner has led a distinguished career in a wide variety of industries. After becoming partner in The Blackstone Group at a young age, he later co-founded Evercore Partners, an investment banking group. He served the Department of State under the Clinton Administration, advising on Russia’s transition away from communism. Beutner is the former CEO of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune. He currently serves as superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District. His philanthropic work has included work with children’s visual health, the arts, and autism.
Chairman, Caesars Entertainment
James Hunt is the Chairman of the Board of Caesars Entertainment. Previously from 2003 to 2012, he served as the Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide. He currently also serves on the board of directors of Brown & Brown, Inc., The St. Joe Company and Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., as well as Nemours Foundation and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Mr. Hunt holds a Bachelor of Science, Summa cum Laude, in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida.
*Disclaimer: Information and content was compiled from multiple sources in a journalistic reporting effort. There is no commercial, promotional or for-profit editorial within this section. This section is in no particular order.