Our inaugural “50 Most Influential” special section is a wrap — let the discussions and debates begin.
For the first time in the nine-year history of In Business Las Vegas, we have assembled a numerical list of who has the power — or “juice” — in Southern Nevada. No doubt about it; these are the movers and shakers who run our city. Now, we simply could have put together this list of heavy hitters and listed them alphabetically in this section and called it a day. But where is the fun in that? Instead, our panel was challenged with ranking them from 1 to 50. That’s when the arguments and disputes began. It led to some spirited, but productive, discussions behind closed doors.
Realize, though, the list is very subjective. One person’s No. 10 could easily be another’s No. 5. We looked at the impact each of these people have had on the city and where we expect them to take things in the years to come. Stopping at 50 people was a tremendous challenge. Aside from this 50, we certainly identified scores of other people who are making a difference in our community. Also, you may notice that no members or employees of the Greenspun family are included. While no one can question the impact people such as Brian, Danny and Barbara Greenspun have had on Southern Nevada, we elected to exclude them from any consideration for the purposes of this section. Enjoy the water-cooler discussions that are sure to result from some of these rankings. We’d love to hear your feedback.
Rob Langrell Editor of Special Publications Rob.Langrell@gmgvegas.com (702) 990-2490
Pat Mulroy General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority
Pat Mulroy is Nevada’s face for water conservation. When she’s not imploring residents to ditch turf for WaterSmart landscaping alternatives, she’s silencing critics of a 250-mile water pipeline from Northern Nevada that she insists will be built in the next decade. Mulroy came to the Water District nearly 20 years ago and since then has helped build what many view as the most progressive water utility in the nation. Because of her conservation programs and efforts to unify the valley’s water agencies, the SNWA is a study for municipalities around the country. Sometimes referred to as the “Water Empress of the West,” Mulroy may be the sustainability linchpin in future economic growth efforts.
Oscar Goodman Mayor, City of Las Vegas
A gin-loving ex-mob lawyer is not only Las Vegas’ mayor, he’s the city’s biggest cheerleader; and there are whispers of a governor run some day. But leaving Las Vegas for the posh digs in Carson City could be tough for the “happiest mayor.” As the benevolent supplier of more than a few colorful quotes to the media, Goodman lays it out as he sees it no matter who’s listening, and his constituents love him for it.
Harry Reid U.S. Senator, State of Nevada
Since first being elected to the Senate in 1986, Reid has leaned on his ability to speak his mind while listening openly to detractors, opponents and allies. Nevada’s level-headed, small-town hero from Searchlight will now enjoy a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate. Reid will help advance policy that could re-ignite the sputtering economy, while addressing a host of other Nevada issues such as Yucca Mountain and a fledgling renewable energy industry.
Steve Wynn Chairman of the Board/CEO, Wynn Resorts
Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio — need we say more? Steve Wynn, who brought the acutely themed megaresort transformation to our city, now has a company brand that is named after him. These days, Wynn seems to be low-key, relying on quality, service and an upscale experience at his namesake property. His art collecting obsession keeps things interesting, and Wynn keeps everyone curious about his next move without even saying a word.
Sheldon Adelson Chairman of the Board/CEO, Las Vegas Sands Corp.
His company and net worth have taken a pounding this year. But when you have billions to lose, you’ve still done something right. While his spats with Steve Wynn have become locals’ comic fodder, Adelson is still a winner for helping bring economic vitality to the valley, while also donating millions to medical research and groups promoting the Jewish heritage. He may not always be liked, but everything he associates himself with gains immediate attention and credibility.
Jim Murren Chairman/CEO, MGM Mirage
Recently taking over after the sudden departure of Terry Lanni, Jim Murren was not only Lanni’s recommendation for the job but probably was everyone’s best guess to fill the top spot at the gaming giant. Murren comes to the helm with 10 years of experience at the company after 14 years as a Wall Street analyst. MGM Mirage’s $9.1 billion CityCenter project was Murren’s brainchild, and he is also well-known for his work in establishing the Nevada Cancer Institute with his wife, Heather. Success “has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself, but rather it is what you do for others to provide hope for a new day.”
Steve Schorr, Vice President, Public and Government Affairs, Cox Communication
We’re proud of you Steve and all that you do for our great community. Congratulations to you and each of the 2008 Most Influential honoree.
Kirk Kerkorian CEO/President/Sole Director/Stockholder, Tracinda Corp.
At 91, Kirk Kerkorian still controls more than 50 per- cent of MGM Mirage. But he perhaps is best known for bringing Elvis to Las Vegas, via the International Ho- tel, Caesars Palace, the original MGM Grand and a host of other interesting real estate moves along the famed Strip corridor. Like many others high on past Forbes’ lists, his stock has taken a beating this year, but Ker- korian will forever remain a name that built Las Vegas.
George Maloof President, Palms Casino Resort
George Maloof has influenced a generation of luxury lifers with his prized casino-resort. Known for being accessible to Palms’ guests and indulging in his share of fun while on the clock at some of his exclusive parties and events, Maloof has built a loyalty with his diverse client base, which ranges from the local middle-class individual to the Hollywood star or professional athlete.
Jim Rogers Founder/Owner, Sunbelt Communications Co. Chancellor, Nevada System of Higher Education
If he doesn’t like you, he’ll tell you — publicly. If he wants $3 billion from you, he’ll make the case, then the demand, and watch you sweat through the decision. Jim Rogers is rich, he’s bold, and if he wants something, he usually gets it. If Nevada is indeed still viewed by outsiders as having that Wild West spirit, Rogers, the state’s feisty higher-education czar — and a man we’d all hate to see packing heat — may be our poster child.
Bruce Woodbury Partner, Law firm of Jolley Urga Wirth Woodbury & Standish
Bruce Woodbury’s first full term on the Clark County Commission started in 1982, and he’s been there ever since. While fellow commissioners Erin Kenny, Dario Herrera and Lance Malone took their punishments, boring Woodbury mucked away under the radar, doing the job he was elected to do. He doesn’t get flash points, for sure, but we’ve gladly awarded his years of leadership by naming a beltway after him — Las Vegas’ version of the 25-year company pin.
Randy Walker Director, Clark County Department of Aviation
When you hand in your resignation, and your employer throws more money at you to keep you around, you’re valuable. When that employer is Clark County Department of Aviation, and you are responsible for managing the arrival of 45 million-plus visitors every year, you are truly invaluable. At one time, Randy Walker, a valley native and head of aviation for the past 18 years, said he wanted to make a move to the private sector; he will be handcuffed to his desk if he ever tries to quit again.
Rossi Ralenkotter President/CEO, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
He may not have come up with the “What happens here stays here” campaign, but he helped hire the firm that did. Rossi Ralenkotter has been involved in the Las Vegas tourism industry for more than 35 years. His knowledge and passion for the city in which he has spent his entire professional career have helped to get bodies (live ones, of course) in hotel rooms, casinos and show seats every night of the week.
Gary Loveman Chairman/President/CEO, Harrah’s Entertainment
Gary Loveman, a former Harvard business professor, has been busy schooling the gaming industry since 2003, when he took the position at Harrah’s. Since then, his company purchased a floundering Caesars Entertainment and has made the World Series of Poker an epic event. Loveman’s focus on the casino rather than the entertainment side of business runs contrary to much of today’s thinking. But don’t be surprised if others study his approach and practice it themselves in the future.
Billy Vassiliadis CEO/Principal, R&R Partners
When politicians and casino companies need help, they call “Bill V.” His advertising firm delivers the juicy fiction every tourist, voter or valley citizen wants to make real. Yes, the brains behind the “What happens here, stays here” campaign also has helped elect Barack Obama, run advertising for Ronald Reagan, and has probably been responsible for more than a few jumps in valley visitor counts throughout the years. We’ll overlook that whole family-friendly campaign in the ’90s.
J. Terrence Lanni Company Director/Diversity Committee Member, MGM Mirage
His recent and somewhat sudden resignation took many by surprise. Controversies aside, J. Terrence Lanni is remaining active in the area of the company and the community where he has made his presence felt the most — diversity initiatives. Because of Lanni’s leadership, MGM Mirage now spends about 11 percent of its procurement budget with minority businesses and boasts a workforce that is more than 50 percent minorities. He and his wife, Debbie, also have started a charitable foundation.
Irwin Molasky Chairman, The Molasky Group of Companies
Park Towers, Boulevard Mall, Sunrise Hospital — they all have developer Irwin Molasky in common, and each symbolizes valley firsts: the first high-rise condo tower, indoor mall and modern hospital, respectively. Molasky also started the UNLV Foundation and has dabbled in entertainment, establishing Lorimar Productions with business partner Merv Adelson. Today, his $107 million Molasky Corporate Center is Las Vegas’ first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified building. We think he’s out of firsts … for now.
Frank Fertitta III President/CEO, Station Casinos
Frank Fertitta and his brother, Lorenzo, have taken locals casinos to Wall Street and brought them back, going private with Station Casinos in 2007. Even with the economic slowdown, Fertitta still remains bullish on his home city while eyeing development plans for Station’s remaining prime land holdings. Many of these holdings Fertitta and his brother bought when everyone else was wondering if Las Vegas was for real or not.
Andre Agassi Founder, The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation
Between tournament winnings and endorsement deals, Andre Agassi probably could spend the rest of his life using $100 bills for dinner napkins. But tennis’ elder statesman is also a rebel with a philanthropic cause. His charitable foundation has raised more than $60 million for Southern Nevada at-risk youth, and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy has given thousands of disadvantaged children opportunities that life hasn’t.
Lon Kruger Head Coach, UNLV Men’s Basketball Team
The man who brought a “Rebel- ution” to the UNLV men’s basketball program is as modest and low- key as they come. But on the court, Lon Kruger means business, and the valley Rebel faithful appreciate his ability to resuscitate a program from a decade long decline prior to his 2004 arrival. If Kruger brings another national championship to Sin City, “Billy V” (No. 14 on our list) could be pitching a new Rebel governor to Silver State voters.
Lorenzo Fertitta Vice Chairman, Station Casinos
With the recent focus on his Ultimate Fighting Championship business play, one wonders if Lorenzo Fertitta is merely biding time until the economic slowdown runs its course and he and his brother, Frank, can refocus their energies on expanding their casino empire. Nonetheless, Fertitta, who bought UFC for $2 million in 2001, when it was on the verge of failure, has created quite an enterprise in relatively short order. Fertitta can proudly state that it takes a casino mind to raise a UFC business.
Richard Bryan Shareholder, Lionel Sawyer & Collins
He was an extraterrestrial killer, snubbing the likes of Carl Sagan and researchers in pursuit of green goblin civilizations. Other than killing NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence organization, Richard Bryan holds the distinguished role as the only Nevadan to serve as a legislator, state attorney general, Nevada governor and U.S. senator. Hitting 70 hasn’t slowed Bryan, who still practices with Lionel Sawyer & Collins in the areas of federal, state and local government relations.
Dr. Walt Rulffes Superintendent, Clark County School District
He runs the fifth-largest school district in the country, and his post is not one of the most coveted out there. Clark County School District, no doubt, has felt the pain of rapid growth, low levels of per-pupil funding and, today, dwindling financial resources. By virtue of the enormity of the superintendent position, as well as his spirited attempts at trying to avert further budget cuts to the strapped district, Rulffes deserves mention on this list.
David Ashley President, University of Nevada Las Vegas
The eighth UNLV president’s methodical approach to decision-making runs contrary to our city’s reputation for impulse. But David Ashley’s quiet and thorough nature may be exactly what UNLV’s drive for research programs needs. A construction engineer by trade, he also may fit in well with the development mindset of the city. So far, Ashley’s tenure has been a quiet one. After getting through the pressing current state budget shortfall, we’ll be able to better see his vision for the school.